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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Seattle School Board Meeting - Big and Bulky

A fascinating, chock-a-block Board meeting to come this Wednesday night and I can only say, "Superintendent Banda, help us!"  That said, this meeting will have it all so he will get a very good look at what's to come.

You should make plans to come given the uncertainty of what the Transportation Plan is at this time.  Both the Board and Banda should be able to see parents mean business.   

To note: if you want to speak, sign-up starts at 8 am Monday morning, 252-0040 or boardagenda@seattleschools.org.   You have two minutes so time that talk.

On the upside, Leo Pfeifer, the young Salmon Bay director, will show his award-winning short film, Who Owns Free Speech, from 5:45-5:55 pm.  (Note to all; if you don't want to watch it, please do not stay in the room and talk.  I've seen this many times with young performers and frankly, some of us DO like to watch the student presentations.)

Superintendent's comments - BEX IV update. Reading the agenda I suddenly remembered an issue that I am going to ask you all to consider writing the Board about because of the huge waste of money involved. Namely, doing BTA work on schools now on the BEX IV list.

It is a waste of valuable capital dollars. Pure and simple. One of the most notable was the redo of tennis courts, playfield and baseball diamonds at Denny under BTA II, only to see them ripped out for the Denny/Sealth BEX III project AND now being redone again. You paid for that to happen.

Sadly, they have already done BTA III work on a proposed BEX IV project, namely Bagley.

My view is that ANY school that is on a proposed BEX IV list AND on a BTA III project list needs to go to the bottom of the BTA III list. That way, if that school doesn't make BEX IV, they still get their work done. However, if they DO get on the BEX IV list, we aren't paying for upgrades that will be destroyed in 6 years.

I'm sure the capital staff has many reasons for doing these projects but I can only say none of the projects are emergencies (because, if so, they would have been done a lot sooner). They could push these off until the BEX list is final. It's a matter of months at this point.

I urge you to write to Pegi McEvoy and the Board and tell them to please consider doing this to save precious capital dollars.

Under Action Items;
  • approval of Superintendent Contract. I hope there is no discussion on this issue - just vote yes. The link for this item is not yet available.
  • The Lake City School lease buy-out has been pulled by request of the A&F Committee. Good idea.
  • Transportation Service Standards - the proposal has numerous strike-outs but no new times.
Under Intro Items:
  • Amending Policy No. 4237 - Advertising and Commercial Activities. As most of you know, the district created this policy against advertising on district property. It was a joint kind of decision with the nutrition policy against junk food being sold. The outcome, though, was a severe loss of funds to the Associated Student Body fund. This is the high school fund that the students use to fund their activities. For less well-off high schools, this change meant big cuts to their funding. It also instituted "pay for play".
Amending this policy would do this: By amending this policy to allow limited advertising on our annual calendar, fields, stadiums and scoreboards, it is hoped that some revenue can be generated to offset that loss in the schools.

What is telling is that now, with this new amendment, the district would take some of the money. To whit:

By permitting some advertising, especially on fields, stadiums and scoreboards, it is hoped that revenue can be generate to share between the schools and the district to offset the revenue losses that occurred previously.


At this point, because the amount of revenue from fields, etc, is unknown, it is recommended that for the first year of the policy all revenue generated from advertising on fields, stadiums and scoreboards be placed in a line item in the general fund budget, and that all revenue be tracked by what type of advertising it is and where it is located. In June of 2013, after a year of implementation of the policy, it is recommended that staff bring to the Audit & Finance Committee a recommendation about revenue sharing between schools and the district.

First, I'm pretty sure that when advertising was permitted, the district took little from the revenues. (Help me out if my recollection is wrong.)

It is possible that the revenue generated through advertising will cover the operating costs of overseeing the advertising process.  If not, the general operating fund would cover the costs of this endeavor.

Revenue generated from advertising on the annual calendar would go to support the creation of
the annual calendar, thus freeing up general operating dollars from that activity.


It is not recommended that the revenue sharing process from fields, stadiums, scoreboards and
possible school signage be developed now, as until we know what type of advertising revenues
are generated and from where, any process would be simply speculative.


I agree they don't have a good idea of how much they can generate (they could check other districts, though).

I also agree they don't have to develop how the revenues will be give out to the high schools now but I believe the majority of the money should go to ASB.
  • Amending Policy 2255 - Alternative Learning Experience schools or programs.  I need Charlie to tell me what he thinks here.
  • Realignment of director districts based on new precinct boundaries.   The populations for each Director's district must be almost the same so they had to refigure the boundaries based on new Census data.
SPS did this work internally and I'll try to get this right.  It doesn't make a big difference but if you live in the north end, your Director may have changed. 

District One (Peaslee) - it appears she takes a tiny little chunk of District Two (Carr)  from the NW (it's hard to figure out but it is around 100-107th between 1-4th NW.)

District Four (DeBell) will take a tiny chunk from Carr at 50th and a bit west.

District Two will take a tiny chunk from District Three (Martin-Morris), east of Greenlake by the freeway.

District Three will take a couple of tiny chunks from District Five (Smith-Blum), mostly at the south edge of District Three downtown.

District VI West Seattle (McLaren) and District VII SE (Patu) are unchanged.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa -

The current BEXIV scenario has the existing Thornton Creek option school retained. The new, 650-seat K-5 building is to be built adjacent to the existing school,where the fields are now.

The Thornton Creek building really, really, needs upgrades.

I realize that all this may change, so perhaps it would be wise to put off the BTA-funded improvements at Thornton Creek until the BEXIV list is finalized in October, but I think putting the Thornton Creek project at the bottom of the BTA list is pretty harsh.

North End Mom

Anonymous said...

You can also watch Leo's film here-- it is great!
http://studentcam.viddler.com/videos/watch.php?id=2620cb29

-Salmon Bay Film Fan

Charlie Mas said...

Other items on the agenda that merit attention:

Alliance for Education MOU. Tell me again why the Alliance for Education gets to have the superintendent and the President of the Board (a quarter of the District's leadership) sit on their board and come to their meetings? I think this is fine, but I also think that every single PTA should also seek an MOU with the District that puts the School Board Director for their region and the Executive Director of Schools for their region on their board as well.

SIS Replacement. This is a good thing. It's too bad that eSIS, the software that we bought a few years ago has been bought and killed by Pearson, but the new product should be better. I think we would have bought the Pearson product instead of eSIS but they say that the Pearson product couldn't have pulled data off the VAX and eSIS could. That's no longer an issue.

Revision to Transportation Standards. They should table this until the community has an opportunity to review it and comment on it.

Final Acceptance - Garfield. Yeah, I know. They are finally closing the books on the Garfield renovation. This was originally budgeted for $54 million. I'd like to hear some lessons learned.

Mann School Reopening. The District is committing $1 million in BEX IV money - before we have it - to reopen the Mann building for The NOVA Project before any has decided that NOVA is moving back into Mann. That's two carts before the horse. Can we get some freakin' process on this? NOVA won't fit into the Mann building, the building can't be expanded to make it fit, and NOVA doesn't want to go back into Mann. Is this how we do Program Placement now?

Nothing is changed about the Alternative Learning Experience policy. Two of the schools changed names and those name changes need to be reflected in the policy is all.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that there are at least two accounts (if not many more) that Alliance has NO involvement in. They are padding the list of accounts they (or their subcontractor) handle. Does any one at SPS check these things?

wondering

Melissa Westbrook said...

North End Mom, you're right, I misread. They had included wording about the TC building in the BEX and I thought it was them. Of course, any building NOT being touched by BEX should remain in BTA.

I would LOVE to hear some lessons learned but really, I think those would get discussed at the BEX Oversight Ctm meeting where it's a safer place. They have done this at the Ctm mtg but they all seem to think nothing else could have been done given the "dire" time of the building and the site itself. Which is not true, of course, but it makes them feel better.

As for Mann, yes, the district does like to spend money on designs without being sure they will use them. This one is a $1M and they spent nearly $800 on designs for when redoing Meany for Nova and World School.

That $800 is now out the door because Nova and World School are not going to be at Meany together.

So Nova isn't going to a building that supports its needs. World School is in a building that would be good but the district has now turned around and reduced the size of their program (a program the DISTRICT wanted to expand a scant few years ago) AND co-housed them with someone else.

It's almost like someone wants to weaken these programs and is working very hard to do it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Uh oh, in doing some work for the World School, I just found a, hmn, what to call it? Misstep, lie, contradiction?

In a document from Facilities to Fred Stephens and Bill Martin from Kathy Johnson (all Facilities people) and cc'd to Scott Massengill,Holly Ferguson, Ron English and Tingyu Wang,
it has a list of closed buildings and why they can't be used for Nova/World School:

"Mann - very poor building condition, over $6M in deferred maintenance, no BTA III to repair."

From Wednesday's Board meeting item about the Mann building:

"The project budget for this work is $13M which includes $5M from BTA III levy and $8M from upcoming BEX
IV levy."

Also, this document states that Columbia is not equipped to be a high school and there are no BTA $$$ to repair. And yet, that's where they want to put World School as an interim site.

I mean I did know that the money for Mann was never in BTA III but this stands as a great example of staff using "data" to support what they want versus the actual facts of the lengths they will go to in order to support what they want later in time. Or support what the Board wants.

Eric B said...

The advertising policy as written opens up the District advertising to religious organizations. I know there's a line in there that bans advertising that promotes a particular religion, but there are a number of end runs around that, particularly for organizations that teach "character development" from a "religious perspective." The ban on religious organizations is also somewhat questionable legally, since there is a Supreme Court decision out there that mandates that public school buildings that are open to any other out of school use must also be open to religious organizations.

I'm not a lawyer, but I saw the Good News Club muscle in to the Ballard area elementary schools like a bull pulling toddlers.

Anonymous said...

Back to the BTA -vs- BEX lists. What irks me is when a school is on the BEX list, then removed, during a round of BEX planning. It then seems to become off limits for BTA funding, because there is always that chance that it will be put on the next BEX.

This happened to John Rogers. No BTAIII projects were planned at John Rogers, presumably because a John Rogers rebuild was on the preliminary BEXIV lists (after it was bumped off of previous BEX planning lists). Now it appears that there will be no John Rogers rebuild, and no BTAIII-funded improvements either.

North End Mom

Anonymous said...

Mr. Banda is coming to town. I hope he can look beyond the smiles, warm greetings, and congratulations and look at what happens when a school district lacks good direction, governance, and management. He needs to come prepared.

I don't know what happened to Dr. Enfield, but I'm angry that things have been left in such a mess. I'm angry that we continue to have Board leadership that seems to calculate every move with politics in mind. What we have is a whole lot of mess which kids and the parents must stew in. This district has had so many people interjecting their big education ideas, companies looking to market their latest education doodahs or for big BEX contracts that the actual mission which is to educate our kids have gotten lost.

Now the district can't even find a way to get our kids to school timely. It had to find the most inefficient and expensive way to do it. As parent of teens, we can't talk about our kids' schools in front of them anymore though they are quite aware of the dysfunction because it permeates and affects them daily in small ways. We try to stay positive about their schools while trying to teach them about responsibility, duties as good citizens, and working for the common good. But it gets harder and harder to do so while keeping a straight face and a sense of optimism when we see people in leadership positions over and over again neglecting their duties while being paid very handsomely.

My youngest likes to think there are still heroes out there ready to fight the rising odds. As an adult, I know better and yet deep down, I too yearn.

-tired parent

Jan said...

tired parent said:

"This district has had so many people interjecting their big education ideas, companies looking to market their latest education doodahs or for big BEX contracts that the actual mission which is to educate our kids have gotten lost."

That is it -- in a nutshell. And it is this, I think, that Mr. Banda has promised NOT to do -- come in with a "big plan" for how to fix everything -- until he has actually had a chance to see for himself, and to get to know us.

We are so far from where we need to be. We started, years ago, with a dysfunctional downtown administration -- and many of us thought that when Manhas left, we were going to try to fix THAT problem. Since then, we have had, layered onto that dysfunction (1) the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, causing seriously distorted funding gaps at the state level (and the feds too, though the state thing is a bigger issue for school funding) AND, at the SAME time, the political chicanery of public school privatization/de-funding that goes under the guise of ed reform.

So, as we despair, I think we need to realize -- these are truly unusual times. I do not recall ever, in almost 40 years in Seattle, a convergence of budget issues, management issues, and political issues -- all at once, and coming not only from the state but from the feds (and at federal, state, and local levels, the astroturf policy and funding orgs).

Our kids (and future generations of children) lose if we quit. And they lose if we get up and go away mad.

All across the country, people of all sorts of political persuasions are beginning to question the lies and half truths of the ed reform movement, to notice the amount of local authority that is being siphoned away to unknown entities with unknown agendas and interests. We can turn back this tide. But because there is so much to lose by the big money interests on the other side (billions of dollars of public assets and funding out there for them to grab and use in making profits for their private companies), AND because they can throw millions of dollars into the effort, we need to stop thinking, no matter how tired we are, that this will be an easy or short battle.

mirmac1 said...

Banda's 3 yr contract $270,000. Hey, if he can get us out of this mess and deliver quality education for all, he's worth every penny.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the plan to phase out schools with less than 250 or so students? It seems there are more than a few below that threshold. Small schools, although favored by many including me, are spendy. From administrative staff to heat... Why not revisit the minimum number of students (minimum enrollment of say, 400) for a financially sustainable school?