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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Transportation in the Times; Board, Are You Listening?

In answer to some questioning here about whether the Board is getting feedback, I can accurately say, YES.  Hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, phone calls - yes, the message is being received so keep it up. 

To the Times' story which is pretty good and accurately points out the following:
  • The one-year plan was developed without public comment. 
  • It was announced weeks after the end of the open-enrollment period, a violation of district policy.
  •  More than 1,500 parents have signed an online petition against the plan, citing sleep deprivation, student safety and the strain put on parents with children at schools with vastly different start times. 
  • It was expected to save $4 million, but saved only half that, mainly because not as many buses could be taken out of service as expected.
  • Some teachers worry that the proposal could lead to longer hours, said Olga Addae, president of the Seattle teachers union.
Then we get to the excuses:
  •  But officials say any plan to shave bus costs will upset some parents. 
  • "Education is our core mission," said Duggan Harman, the district's top financial officer. "We're to the point where we cannot make any budget reductions without inconveniencing students."
  • This year, School Board members told transportation staffers in February to identify $1 million in new savings. The staffers say the late request — the budget must be finalized in a few weeks — forced them to rush.
  • District staffers said they could not solicit community comment because of the short time frame the board gave them, but some parents said that is not a valid excuse.
Look, I feel fairly certain staff knew they were not going to save the money they thought they were early on.  I also feel fairly certain that if you told parents you would have to find a way to cut $1M and gave them 3-4 options, they would probably feel better to at least have been asked.

And I think they could come up $1M like hey, in the Community Schools fund. To whit:

The account is within the Capital Eligible Projects Fund of the Capital Fund and the Board acted “to set aside and restrict the use of $18,700,000 within such fund, and the investment returns on such amount after September 1, 2011, to such uses asare expressly approved by the School Board.” 

The Board Action report goes on to state, “It is anticipated these funds may be used for the World School, for temporary loans to other capital eligible activities and for unexpected needs of the District.” 

Is this not a pressing need?

I give the last words to a parent quoted in Times and to a student who wrote the Board.

"It's incredible," said Bruce Gray, the father of a third-grader at Orca K-8. "I can't believe the board would consider changes with impacts this big for thousands of kids when there is so much confusion and so many unanswered questions."

A third-grader at Orca K-8:

Dear School Board,

I do not think kids like myself should have to get up at 6 am to get to school.  Because then we would not have enough sleep.  And if we don't have enough sleep then we would not learn as much as we would if school started at 9:20 or 8:20b ecause we would be too tired to learn.  And I know that from personal experience!  I live close to school so I can walk .  But it would be dark and dangerous most of the year.  And what do you care about more: a million dollars or a kids safety?  And it would be even harder for our teachers.  They would have to get up at 5:00 to get to their school and get ready for the day.  And also us kids would not get to have a good, healthy breakfast. Do you want us to be unhealthy?  And if we have after school activities, we would definitely be too tired to participate in them.  We would be cranky, not happy.  And we would hate school.  Do you want to take away our happiness?  

Just something to consider.  

Go get 'em, tiger.



 

32 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Aha! I knew they asked in February. NOT, end of March like Bob Westgard said at intro. Why do staffers say whatever they think will slip by the public and con the board?! Who on the board was in on it? I have my suspicions.

I look forward to not have to be so cynical...

Anonymous said...

From a quick look at Anaheim elementary schools, the start times are 7:30, 7:45, and 8:10, with the latest release at 2:40. If those are the three tiers being referenced in the Seattle Times article, it does not compare to the tiers being proposed by SPS.

parent

Anonymous said...

@ parent: If you are looking at Banda's district, know they have ONLY elementary schools AND a sunny climate with earlier winter sunrise

Banda's current solution is not our future solution. NO SPS KIDS ON BUSSES BEFORE 7:15 AM. (Unless you'd like them to be yours?)

-skeptical- (soon to be
-insurrectionist-)

Anonymous said...

PS: From the story, Staff is blaming the board for an unrealistic timeframe to do a proposal. You just KNOW that the Board is about to turn around and blame staff for a bad plan.

And no doubt neither one will apologize to the community for this disaster.

The dysfunction of JSIS is staggering. Truly staggering.

-critical-

Anonymous said...

As a parent who found out about the bell time change at our school on the first day of school this year(by overhearing a teacher wondering why so many students were late-no official notice was given to any of the families at our school) I am furious about this proposal. In addition to all of the research of sleep, ability to pay attention, etc in our kids, the school system's thought to make such a major change without really considering the impact on the families is astounding. No only is it not good for our students, but it also greatly effects the work and family lives of our community!

I did email Betty Patu and she replied that our concerns are being heard, at least by her. Also that she disagrees with the lack of transparency and professionalism.

Po3 said...

I hope the board does not spend one minute on blame and finger pointing. All efforts need to be put towards solutions.

KG said...

In the morning Seattle Times Duggan Hrman is quoted as saying,

"Education is our core mission."


"We are to the point where we cannot make any budget reductions without inconveniencing students."

Why does't he be honest and say, "We are to the point that making any reductions in Central admin. will never happen as students need to pay the price for our lousy decisions.'

They just riffed 16 counselors.

Remember, Success for central admin. pocket books and nothing less.

Just widen the acheivement gap.

That is all they do.

RIF Central admin.

Anonymous said...

How much money would we save if they dumped the MAP test that no one likes?

FHP

Eric B said...

I sent my proposal in to the Board last night. It was substantially the same as what was posted here earlier, although I did change up some of the wording based on feedback from readers here.

My argument to the Board is that we can't just ask how we can cut money form the Transportation budget. We have to think about how we can make Transportation benefit student success. If you just looked at money, we wouldn't have STEM, language immersion, etc. For all of those programs, the Board looked at benefits and decided that the cost was worth it.

Sahila said...

I love the comment "RIF central admin"...

If it had any integrity, the district would give its own administration a VAM evaluation, with the same enthusiasm its insisting that teachers be held accountable for students' academic performance...

Judging by the District's long history of poor performance, it hasnt been following staff performance evaluation and firing procedures ...

Seeing it uses the budgeting-related RIF process to get rid of teachers (expecting our children to just live with the effects of that decsion), it could use the same budgeting-RIF process to justify getting rid of bodies at central admin...

Central admin's performance is abysmal already... it couldnt possibly be worse if they had to do with fewer bods at desks...

And maybe the dollars saved could be spent on a transportation schedule that actually serves our childrens' best interests...

Anonymous said...

The Times Article misses the boat on the issue of proposed Tier 3 late starts -- 10:00 starts are now being discussed for Tier 3. This is absurd and arguably more disruptive to families than the too-early Tier 1 starts being proposed. How about developing a plan that has no school starting before 8:00 or after 9:30. These 2-plus hour spreads are wreaking havoc on our families.
- No on 10:00 start times

Jamie said...

Reposting anon at 4:59 since it will likely be deleted.

Anonymous said...
As a parent who found out about the bell time change at our school on the first day of school this year(by overhearing a teacher wondering why so many students were late-no official notice was given to any of the families at our school) I am furious about this proposal. In addition to all of the research of sleep, ability to pay attention, etc in our kids, the school system's thought to make such a major change without really considering the impact on the families is astounding. No only is it not good for our students, but it also greatly effects the work and family lives of our community!

I did email Betty Patu and she replied that our concerns are being heard, at least by her. Also that she disagrees with the lack of transparency and professionalism.

5/10/12 4:59 AM

Anonymous said...

re: the comment above this.

Where is documentation that 10 a.m. start times are being proposed?

EdVoter

Anonymous said...

The documentation on 10am start times isn't out yet, because Transportation isn't releasing the proposal until after 5pm on Friday. However, Transportation outlined this proposal two days ago to a Tier 3 school representative.

10am Start is Just Plain Stupid

Cliff Mass Weather Blog said...

If you want to stagger buses, why not stagger LATER rather than earlier. Thus, some kids could sleep LATER. And students would be coming home later, which could be good for working parents .......a win, win situation?

KG said...

Agree 100% Sahila.

Anonymous said...

Another comparison - Anchorage, Alaska. It's even more North.

Elementaries: 9:00-3:30
Middle schools: 8:15-2:45
High Schools: 7:30-2:00

parent

ArchStanton said...

Here's my new half-baked idea:

Since Transportation is driving the bus; let the District have their three or four (or however many) tiers of start times, but create a NEW New Student Assignment Plan that allows for school choice based on start time.

Harder at the HS level, but you could have 3-4 elementary schools in a cluster, each with different start times, and let families choose which schedule fits their needs best. (e.g parents work early and need to drop off early - choose an early start, kids sleep late - choose a late start, need to coordinate pickup/dropoff of kids in different schools - choose two different start times).

Since all neighborhood schools are theoretically providing equivalently good education (under NSAP), there aren't many reasons to choose one school over another (option schools and special programs notwithstanding). They could even use this choice to drive more families to schools perceived as "less desirable". (i.e. you can have the start time you want, but you have to go here).

I'm half-serious here. Not because I think it couldn't work, but because I wouldn't trust SPS to manage it.

Anonymous said...

Cliff -- the problem with just moving all start times later under the 3 tier system is that the start times are already too late for Tier 3 schools, which now start at 9:30 at some schools. There is talk of 10:00 starts for tier 3 schools next year. This is wreaking havoc on families on both ends (too early and too late starts). 10:00 starts are brutal for working parents. It will be a nightmare for families with kids in both tier 1 and tier 3. Child care, work schedules, after school sports are all impacted negatively. Parents are facing 4 hour work windows with child A getting on the bus in the dark and child B getting off the bus in the dark. The solution is not to make 3 full tiers of schools later. We need all schools to start and end at reasonable times.
- No on 10:00 start times

Sahila said...

@Arch ..... love the thinking outside the box.... not a bad idea at all - ridiculous early starts given our own biorhythms is one reason we are unschooling now....

NoWay said...

The 10:00 start times for 3rd tier schools was also in one of the proposed plans (alternative 1, I think?). It wasn't presented as the preferred plan, so people weren't paying attention. I can't imagine a 10:00 start time for elementary school. I have a child in a tier 3 school; I don't know what we'll do if this comes to pass.

Anonymous said...

10:00am start time for elementary?! Nooooo! The 9:30 start time is already killing us. My kids wake up at 5:45 going at full throttle. Their best hours of the day are over by the time school starts.

What makes me so mad is that Stevens used to be a school where most kids walked. When the district redrew the boundaries, they made the Stevens area a few blocks wide and several miles long. I assume this was done to increase racial and socio-economic diversity since the boundaries don't make much geographic sense. I'm fine with increasing diversity, but now it takes lots of buses to get all the kids to their "neighborhood school".

Hopping Mad

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
The documentation on 10am start times isn't out yet, because Transportation isn't releasing the proposal until after 5pm on Friday. However, Transportation outlined this proposal two days ago to a Tier 3 school representative. - 10am Start is Just Plain Stupid

Can you elaborate on this new proposal from Transp - did they just address potential Tier 3 or what about the brutally early 7:25AM start time proposaed for MS/HS Tier 1 - was there any update to that proposal? I would like to hear from anyone who knows whats happening, at this pt, next wk is the Bd expected to approve the original proposal; table it; or vote on a different set of bell/bus times? THNX for any feedback.
- MS parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hopping Mad, I doubt that any boundaries were drawn for diversity. You'd have to ask Tracy in Enrollment.

What is the Board expected to do on this issue? There's a big problem for them.

On the one hand, it is getting LATE to be figuring this all out. Our district lives for a crisis and it works out for staff to get their way ("it's late", "it's costly", "we'll do better the next year").

On the other hand I know the Board is hearing this outcry, loud and clear. There is no ignoring it and they might be very careful with their response.

I will point out that this issue will not go away. With BEX IV and the reopening/opening of old/new schools, clearly boundaries will be redrawn and we may possibly revisit this issue.

Cliff Mass Weather Blog said...

Let's really think outside the box folks. The High Schoolers should start at 10 AM, not the elementary kids. HS students naturally want to sleep late. They don't need their working parents hanging around to take care of them.

So start with elementary schools at some reasonable time--say 8 AM. Then middle school and THEN high school.

Parents can go to work at a reasonable time. Why doesn't this work? Why do HS starts have to be first?...cliff

Jan said...

Lots of us agree with you, Cliff -- and want the order switched so that little kids (many of whom wake up earlier) take the first shift, and high schoolers take the later one. One issue is with little kids walking to bus stops -- and catching buses in the dark in winter. And, of course, if it gets TOO early, it goofs up their sleep as well. HS parents are worried about pushing school so late that kids can't do after school activities (sports, music, jobs) but that seems to have worked out ok for other districts that have made the move to later HS start times.

Jan said...

Technically, I should say "some" of us agree with you. No clue how many, or how many would constitute "lots."

Anonymous said...

No schools should start as late as 10:00. Zero. Zip. Nada.

One thing to consider: if high school and middle school end before elementary, an older sibling can be home when their elementary sibling comes home (no need for child care).

Jane

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe, but in Fairbanks, there is a charter school with a 9:50 start time:

http://ekc.k12northstar.org/about/school-start-time

another skeptic

Anonymous said...

Jane said "One thing to consider: if high school and middle school end before elementary, an older sibling can be home when their elementary sibling comes home (no need for child care)."

Those same HS and MS siblings who you note are often aftershool caregivers would also be out of the house much earlier than their younger siblings. And if elementary schools aren't starting until 10am or so, that childcare gap is just shifted from afternoon to morning.

Bussed Off

Anonymous said...

MS parent - the 10:00 possible start time is even later than the times on the 3 outdated proposals on the SPS web site. This new proposal pushes tier 3 even later to address concerns raised about too early starts by middle & high schoolers. Transportation's response: ok, we'll throw in a proposal that starts tier 1 at 8:00 (reasonable) but doesn't start tier 3 until 10:00 (outrageous). Transportation will present this to the board on Friday, and will not post any new proposal until 5:00 pm Friday, with a vote on May 16. When is there time for public comment? Are they trying a divide & conquer approach - have tier 1 families duke it out with tier 3 families to see who gets the short end of the stick? What about the many families with kids in both tier 1 & tier 3.
- flabbergasted

Rufus X said...

@Flabbergasted said
Are they trying a divide & conquer approach - have tier 1 families duke it out with tier 3 families to see who gets the short end of the stick?

Don't know if that is the intent, but it certainly can be the impact (if it's not already).

The script looks like this -
Staff: We have to cut money, sorrry folks - we have no easy choices. So here are three crappy ones.

Parents: Ok fine, but don't make MY school start too early/too late - give it to somebody else.

Grumble, grumble, grumble....

The script doesn't have to be written this way. Workable alternatives are being offered. Instead of telling the district what we DON'T want (based on their ridiculous "proposals"), let's please continue to tell them what we DO want and what could be workable.

Now, whether they listen or not....that's something else entirely. Considering they're still saying "we had no idea enrollment would go up" re: the school closures after years of being proven wrong, I don't have much faith. But I'm trying, Ringo - I'm trying reeeeeeeeal hard.....