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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lawsuit over Creative Approach Schools Needs Help

District watchdog Chris Jackins came forward at a recent Board meeting to say that he believed (and a lawyer looking at the RCW concurred) that the MOU between the district and the SEA is illegal.

 He has found a number of appellants to sign onto a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the MOU.  

But, that lawsuit needs money to start down this road.  If you find this MOU troubling and want to support this effort, contact Chris at 206-219-1687 or 206-521-3288.  Your donation will remain anonymous and any amount ($10, $20, $50, etc.) would be a big help. 

Thanks in advance. 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I"m no lawyer so I sure don't have an opinion. I wonder what Chris' rationale is... We have to do something unless we want families to look to charter schools in the future. JMO.

n...

Anonymous said...

This seems like a very strange use of this blog that is usually full of information and insights.

It would be nice to keep the money issue out of bounds.

- Keep to issues

Wondering said...

Good for Chris. No shortage of political machinations behind this one.

I don't think- for one second- Seattle's Creative Approach Schools will stop the charter train from heading down the tracks. Too many dollars behind this one.

Jack Whelan said...

There has been no official filing yet, as it's not clear that we will have the money to go forward, but as one of the appellants, I'll explain why some of us feel that this is a necessary step.

First, this is not an attack on Creative Approach Schools. I think they're a good idea, but as the debate about this initiative here and elsewhere made very clear, there were good reasons to be concerned about how these schools could be used for the wrong reasons, and it was essential that the language in the MOU obviate any such possibility. The language in the MOU failed in that respect because it cut the board out of the CAS application approval process.

Sharon Peaslee caught this and offered a simple amendment to fix it, but the board voted 5-2 not to adopt her amendment, and then approved the MOU as written.

I don't think there's any real dispute that the School Board gave away its oversight when it refused to adopt Sharon Peaslee's amendment to the MOU. KSM, SC, and MMc acknowledged as much at the meeting, but said that it was a bug that could be fixed down the road, for instance, when the next CBA is negotiated in 18 months or so. MMc voted against Peaslee's amendment for fear of delaying CAS implementation since the MOU would have to go back to SEA rank and file for a re-vote, and she said she trusted everybody not to abuse the unfixed MOU.

But it also became clear that MDB had been involved in the development of the MOU with the superintendent and the SEA, and there's a real question now whether cutting out the board's oversight was a feature of this MOU rather than a bug. This seems to be one way to set up a wall preventing potential board interference with downtown plans.

So the problem may or may not get fixed in 18 months, and In the meanwhile there's a loophole big enough to drive a freight train through.Teachers and admin at a school can develop a CA plan that excludes families from any input. Families cannot appeal to their elected representatives on the School Board because the board has cut itself out of the process. Schools could possibly be given over to LEV or some other private entity without board approval, and there are any number of scenarios that could develop, and the board would just have to shrug its shoulders.

In this political climate the decision to trust a dysfunctional system that has time and time again proved itself unworthy of trust is astonishing to me. This past board election, if it was about anything, it was about the failure in vigilance and oversight of the previous board, and now the new board seems bent on continuing down that irresponsible path.

And while MDB and the downtown folks for whom he's carrying water seem to want it that way, it's a very bad precedent that needs to be reversed. Better we delay implementation of the Creative Approach Schools for another year than hope and trust everyone will do the right thing.

We believe that allowing this "bug" was wrong as a matter of principle and as a matter of law. We believe we have a strong case, and if we obtain the funds, we will pursue it. But the deadline for filing is this week.

Anonymous said...

"keep to issues" at 10:45

'keep the money issues out of bounds'

What does that mean, in the grown up, adult real world?

money makes the world go around - unless you have so much that you can hire someone to take care of it for you, or, you're 1 an aspirant to that cushy class, or, you don't know what I'm talking about.

By living in a political teletubby world, you're doing what the string pullers want, unless, you're 1 of the string pullers, or 1 of their chief toadies.

Please, do yourself a favor - accept that money makes the world go around, and, follow the money.

GrowUP

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just don't get why people think charters are inevitable. They're not.

As for letting people know about a lawsuit over an MOU that many find troubling, I find that a worthy news item. Lawsuits cost money.

Jack, is right. This is a flawed MOU and the idea is fine but it needed tweaking before it was approved.

dan dempsey said...

JW,

I find the following very disconcerting (you wrote):

"I don't think there's any real dispute that the School Board gave away its oversight when it refused to adopt Sharon Peaslee's amendment to the MOU. KSM, SC, and MMc acknowledged as much at the meeting, but said that it was a bug that could be fixed down the road, for instance, when the next CBA is negotiated in 18 months or so. MMc voted against Peaslee's amendment for fear of delaying CAS implementation since the MOU would have to go back to SEA rank and file for a re-vote, and she said she trusted everybody not to abuse the unfixed MOU."

CLASSIC NONSENSE once again.

The job of directors is NOT to trust but to approve legally correct proposals. --- MMcL is Unbelievable... except this is regularly believable as this happens repeatedly in the SPS with at least 4 votes in favor of illegal or completely unjustified action report proposals.

Write an action report that contains an illegal proposal and then the Board approves it even though it is illegal and force the public to raise around $10,000 over the long haul to stop the District from violating the law. ..... But this time MMCL says she is trusting no one will abuse this MOU....

So is trusting and hoping the job of a school board member? I've been watching 5-years of this kind of behavior from at least 4 school board members at a time.

If the producers of SB Action reports are so incompetent that they put forth illegal or harmful proposals, it is the job of the Board Directors to reject such proposals. Clearly Marty McLaren has a lot more trust in those that devise flawed action reports than I do. Most of the flaws I see are not accidental. Taking the Board out of the Loop in regard to MOU school decision-making ... hard to see that as accidental. SAO reports that the Board fails to oversee the Superintendent adequately ... so Board votes to not oversee the Superintendent's actions in regard to a responsibility that is clearly a Board responsibility.

To review just 2 past failures:

(1)Enfield put forth extremely in accurate Action Reports on New Tech Network contract. They were filed with inaccuracies that were not random as they painted a far too rosy picture of NTN school results. $800,000 flushed for worthless tool and services.

(2) TFA contract ... district never conducted required careful review and violated the law in doing so. This was NO Accident. Data presented in the justification for TFA was highly flawed.... the Mathematica report had no relevance for the TFA Seattle situation but was in the SBAR and Liv Finne brought it up again in the recent TFA cancelation Intro at the last SB meeting as justification for continuing TFA. Board violated the law and plans on continuing on doing so it appears by a likely 4-3 vote.

===========
IMO Marty McLaren seems to see the SEA as the good guys ... so its all OK. .. except that ...

(3) WEA and SEA supported the Common Core State Standards and a variety of other items (Race to the Top toadies) which harm students and treat teachers as far less than professionals.

So we have a Board that often fails to follow law and MMcL endorses that approach in certain situations.

This is just nuts. ... and the public now gets at most 20 two minute slots to object to ongoing nonsense..... because School Board meetings needed to be shortened by 20 minutes and the best way to do that was restrict public speech, in the interests of better governance.

THE MONEY TRIBE rolls on .... rolling over existing laws and the public. ..... oh I do hope this gets better.

Wondering said...

DeBell was able to convince the board a high level of govenance could be attained. It appeard KSB, Carr and McLaren remained somewhat concerned, but voted for the MOU anyway. The directors had an ENORMOUS amount of political pressure being applied on them.

There are advantages to Creative Approach Schools. The MOU is very vague and potential for abuse exists.

The MOU can be fixed by giving the schools broad ability to waive policy, but ultimate legal responsibility is with the board.

I'm confused as to why any board member would want to give away their power. Some think contracts could be renegotiated in 18 months- good luck. The cat is out of the bag.

Anonymous said...

Sooo...how long before you file a recall on your former BFF and fellow lawsuit buddy Mary McLaren, Dan? I knew you'd be PO'd with her the second she voted "against" your viewpoint on anything.

ShakingMyHead

Chris S. said...

I am curious about "enormous political pressure." Can you be more specific?

dan dempsey said...

Dear ShakingMyHead,

This is not about point of view in regard to MOU ... it is about the law. You need to read the opinion given to Mr. Jackins by Mr. Scully. This is legally sound.

I am certainly more than interested in a discussion of the reduction of School Board testimony to 2 minutes.

So what do you have to say on these two issues?

Or are you in favor of ignoring discussion of issues?

Wondering said...

Chris,

Burgess was sitting in the audience awaiting the vote for CA schools. It appears Creative Approach Schools is tied into the Family and Education Levy. Burgess is not happy that 80% of the teachers will have to agree to give up their CBA to be part of Creative Approach Schools. To Burgess, 80% is too high of a number. Clearly, Burgess desires teachers to give up their CBA. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.:

http://publicola.com/2012/03/05/seattle-is-leading-on-education-reform/

SEA was also putting pressure on the board. They wanted schools to be opened this fall. The district was also pushing for this MOU to be passed during the legislative period to ward off charter legislation.

dan dempsey said...

Wondering,

Great job of showing how in WA Ed it is about which tribe is pushing and has next to zero to do with evidence-based decision making.

The idea of using existing proven practices is apparently NOT creative.

Anonymous said...

Marty McLaren was very disappointing during this discussion and vote. It was clear that she knew it was not legal but voted for it anyway. Ditto, Carr and Smith Blum.

It was especially troubling since McLaren knows firsthand how and why lawsuits happen in this district. She vote seemed to cast Knapp's support as more important than following the law.

I am also noticing Smith Blum and McLaren getting mousey lately.
This is exactly what DeBell wanted (he did everything but call them the B word). Peaslee and Patu are not falling for bullying wimpiness but the other two have definitely kicked into the "act like nice girls" schtick. They really need to stop.

What a shame.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Her vote, not she vote, she wolf or whatever.

--enough already

StopTFA said...

"She vote." enough already, yer killin' me! But I'm one of the undead anyway : 0

Inquiring Mind said...

A Civil lawsuit was filed on March 7th against SPS, Teresa Destrebeq and Dina Ladd. Teresa Destrebeq is the assistant principal who suddenly announced she was resigning as of March 9th.

Does anyone have any info on what the civil suit is about?

Just Wondering

Amy said...

A Lawsuit is Misguided. Is the point of this blog to scare parents who don't have time to read the details of things and to halt any effort at innovation in Seattle Public Schools?

Having actually read the "Definition, Criteria and Process" for the Creative Approach School application process (as well as the MOU iterations), a school actually has to have support from the families in order to be approved. This support has to be outlined as part of the application. 80% of staff has to agree to this as well.

So, while the MOU might have a loop hole that allows a school's administration to by-pass the parent support, the application process would stop that effort dead in its tracks.

Even the school board members can agree that this is really not a problem and that it can be addressed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2013.

I am a parent, working with other parents, on our school Creative Approach School application. I would encourage other people to read these documents. You can also search for the MOU and find it easily, as well as a power point the Seattle School District published/presented on Creative Approach.

Links:
Definition, Criteria and Process

Seattle WEA FAQ About Creative Approach

Sincerely,

An SPS Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Amy, the "oversight committee, can ignore any and all parent input. After all, they are in charge. So if there is no real parental input or guidance, you think an application will be turned down? I don't think so and I think the proof will be in the pudding. But note, no parents on the Oversight Committee.

It's fine that you are willing to wait for the CBA in 2013. I'm not and no one asked for anyone to sign onto the lawsuit. It's education news and we printed it. Support it or not; that's certainly your choice.