Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Open Thread

Superintendent Banda's contract now available; he will be making slightly more than Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did. 

What's on your mind?


mirmac1 said...

Seattle Schools Schedules Second Public Hearing for May 22 and Extends Comment Period

Seattle Public Schools has scheduled a second public hearing to accept comments on the Draft Environmental Impacts for the Building Excellence Program IV (BEX IV). The hearing will be held on Tue day, May 22, 5:00-6:00 p.m. at Roxhill Elementary School, located at 9430 30th Ave. SW in Seattle.

Eric B said...

I ran some numbers on transportation last night, and frankly, it was pretty appalling. Thanks to Mirmac's pointer, I found some stats in the transportation contract from February. The estimate then was that the District would transport 17,000 students on 450 routes. The numbers still weren't broken down by elementary/secondary, so I had to make some assumptions about how that broke down. Overall, I came up with needing about 300 buses at 100% capacity (which is obviously unrealistic). Changing those assumptions on elementary/secondary breakdowns would move this a bit, but not too much.

So if we ran each bus once, it would be at about 67% full. We're running most buses twice, so they're running right now at 33% full, assuming a full-size bus. That might be the best we can do for a 25-minute route, since it takes time to load kids.

Where I get really frustrated is when I look at the numbers and types of buses. The District said they thought that they would need about 110 smaller (Type A, 20-28 students) buses, and about 200 larger (Type C, 40-60 students depending on grade level) buses. First Student's proposal broke down the daily price of a bus based on the numbers for each type.

Clearly, if the average bus is running 33% full, we can run an awful lot of smaller buses. If we dropped to a 50-50 split between large and small, we'd save about $650K.

$650K. No change in start times. No change in ride length. No community uproar. $650K in savings. The optimization problem looked an awful lot like some my 8th grader has done in class this year. That's why I'm depressed this morning.

Anonymous said...

Eric B. Those savings numbers don't include the huge cost savings potentially achieved with "community stops" such as TOPS pioneered this year. This innovative solution was dismissed by the transportation departments "experts" (3rd tier midmanagement functionaries) as "not working" at the board meeting. Why?

It ain't because they're not working. (They minimize route times, fill buses, and provide more safety measures at stops.) It's because Staff hadn't (and still hasn't) lifted a finger...not one finger...to do analysis on them. And the Board, having authorized the experiment, never bothered to ask for a follow-up report. Appalling.

Aghast Mom

mirmac1 said...

Hoo Boy! Good thing DeBell tried to ram that Alliance-approved 1620 Board Procedure on Board-Superintendent relations. We might have never attracted excellent superintendent candidates (NOT!)

Meanwhile the soon-to-be ex-interim Superintendent found her soulmates at Highline, but didn't they get the memo...?

Outside help may be needed to heal Highline board rift
. Or perhaps the board whisperers at Alliance have been chatting up Highline, in the hopes of opening an affiliate in Burien.

mirmac1 said...

The Times is looking for a new editorial writer:

"The Times editorial team is seeking a shrewd and enterprising editorial writer to help lead critical conversations important to the Puget Sound region and Washington state. The editorial writer will serve as a member of the editorial board, researching and making policy recommendations and writing insightful, persuasive editorials on behalf of The Times editorial board and the occasional personal column.

This person should be skilled at understanding complex issues, seeing both the big picture and the nuance in search of the questions that really matter. The writer should be open-minded but super-resistant to spin from political operatives and special interests. The writer should be passionate and collegial in debating issues with colleagues and skilled at cultivating sources. This person will contribute to the editorial page's online presence through regular blogging and leveraging social media to engage readers and sources. This person will be skilled at writing on deadline, responding quickly to the news of the day and looking for opportunities to break news."

Gee, is Lynne being replaced for someone with the requisite skills?

Anonymous said...

Is the Alliance for Education MOU update going to slide right into board approval with no community discussion?

Should the community care?


suep. said...

Yes, the community should care about the Alliance for Ed MOU. It's appalling that the Alliance is profiting off our cash-strapped school communities like that -- and now asking for even more money from the district.

What exactly is the purpose of the Alliance anyway? Who needs them?

If they were merely the earnest banker for our PTAs, that would be one thing, but the Alliance has its own political agenda as well, and no one elected them.

mirmac1 said...

What I don't get is, they list our school's PTA as one of their "accounts". Uh, sorry, they don't do diddly for us.

Disgusted said...

Copied from section pertaining to Melissa's article in the Washington Post (not sure why comment section has been haulted):

"Melissa Westbrook is not the enemy but is quite the opposite. Your attempt at divide and conquer has been the historical tool of those who seek to weaken the less powerful. "

You bet. The powers that be are finding this blog a threat - and that is a good thing. Afterall, we managed to get 2 incumbents out of office. Keep up the good work and keep on informing.

Jan said...

The oddest thing about the Highline situation (to me, anyway) is that it doesn't say whether Spear attempted to deal with the issue in any way before filing the complaint. Misuse of emails (in possible violation of Open Meetings laws) seems to be a legitimate issues -- but it seems to be an odd thing to file a complaint about if you haven't worked the issue first -- and you can't really tell from the article.

Jan said...

I agree with Sue (especially if what mirmac1 says is true -- that they are claiming to handle funds they don't really handle -- are they then taking 5% of those funds as well?)

They are NOT just a supporting organization. They have a separate political agenda that does not always coincide with the Board's views, or District families' and voters' views (which are not monolithic in any case). They have "chosen" a political side -- which is ok, but only if it is on their dime, not mine (through taxes that the District gets -- and then spends on them without putting the contract out to bid).

I think the increase should be turned down, and either now or the NEXT time the contract comes up for renewal, it should be subject to the bidding process for public bids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You had two weeks to comment on the Alliance MOU. What's interesting is that the belief by staff is that the Alliance is so tied to the district and so helpful that the Board must pass the MOU. But no one thought it important enough to ask parents and school staff about the great job that the Alliance is supposedly doing.

suep. said...

Among other things, in 2009, the Alliance paid $14,000 to the D.C.-based, politically connected "National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)" (whose Advisory Board is full of the usual suspects) to come to Seattle to write up our district's teachers in a report, and contrived the "Our Schools Coalition" after using the questionably obtained private contact information of thousands of SPS kids and teachers to help create a push-poll on which it based the "OSC" platform, all to put pressure on SPS teachers and influence the district's contract with the teacher's union.

(Should the School District Be Allowed to Give Our Kids’ Phone numbers, Addresses and Photos to Every Tom, Dick and Pollster?)

The Alliance is not a neutral, benign organization, but an unelected enterprise with a political agenda and which also arguably serves as the money-launderer for the corporate ed reformers.

Oh, and the fee-charging banker for some SPS PTAs.

At a time when the district is trying to cut transportation costs, and find money for classroom essentials, this MOU from the Alliance asking for more money from the district for its dubious services strikes me as incredibly tone-deaf and smacks of petty greed.

If it's strapped for extra cash, maybe the Alliance should think twice before spending money on questionable items like that $14k NCTQ report.

mirmac1 said...

If they had asked parents, they would've gotten blank stares and guffaws. Our PTSA treasurer busts her *$! doing this work, for free.

Anonymous said...

So who on the staff and who on the Board feel this work by the Alliance is so important and cost effective to pay them @ 7.5%? Is there no other way to do it better and cheaper?

counting cents

Charlie Mas said...

mirmac1 asked if Lynne Varner is being replaced.

No, Joni Balter is being replaced.

Melissa Westbrook said...

CC, Holly Ferguson for sure from staff and likely most of the Board. I think they balance the goodwill from the people who fund the Alliance against what the Alliance actually does. But that the Board isn't taking every - single- funding issue and looking at it because of our financial issues, is sad.

Anonymous said...

On the WS blog comments about the new STEM school and the plan to apply for a math waiver for Singapore Math a person made a comment that "since, the district has been part of the design process from the very beginning and approval of the waiver is essentially guaranteed."

How is that fair? So will everyone's waivers now be accepted?

At a loss

SP said...

Transportation's final/updated/corrected version for Wed's Board vote has just been posted online (Friday's updated version incorrectly included the 2/01/12 approved version & did not match this current year's schedule, as was promised in the SPS news release).

For example, 1st tier elementary schools (8:00am bus arrival time) have been removed entirely, and 1st tier Option K-8 listed for 15 min. later at 8:00am.

(the 5/15/12 revision):

"The bus arrival/departure time windows shall be:

High School & Middle Schools between 7:30 a.m. – 2:35 p.m.

First Tier Option K-8 Schools between 8:00 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Third Tier Option K-8 Schools between 9:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Second Tier Elementary Schools between 8:35 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.

Third Tier Elementary Schools between 9:10 a.m. – 3:45 p.m."

Note- This schedule above is what the Board will vote on tomorrow, but Bob Westgard has added that at a later date, 6-10 elementary schools will be moved to the later tier, but that will be a separate Board vote later on.

So folks, you now have 24 hours for your "Community input" before the final vote!

Po3 said...

RE: Transporation.

In addition, bus ride times will now be 45 minutes.

For the HS & MS start of 7:30 a.m.
students will be be dropped off at school by 7:20, after a 45 minute bus ride, which by my estimate is a 6:40 AM pick up.

And all the email responses I have gotten from board directors indicate that this is fine and dandy.

hschinske said...

Joni Balter is being replaced.

Well, that's also good news, as far as I'm concerned. Never cared for her work.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it the Board is VERY very unhappy with Transportation management staff - should be interesting to see what actually happens on this tomorrow

in the know

mirmac1 said...

in the know,

The Board is EQUALLY at fault. They should quit acting like the Queen of Hearts.

po3 said...

I think I made a mistake, 7:30 is the drop off time, so pick up would be 6:45.

All to save $200K-$500K and we know it won't be anyhere near $500K.

They best vote no tomorrow; no change. (which is not all that great anyway!)

Anonymous said...

Helen: Joni Balter has been given a new, and I assume more lofty, position at The Times, so you'll still have the opportunity to be disappointed by her work (as was I).

mirmac1 said...

So who got RIFfed from Central Office? Want to lay any bets?

Charlie Mas said...

The Reduction in Force process is only required for folks who are included in the collective bargaining agreement. Central office staff are, for the most part, under annual contracts. The District is under no obligation to renew their contracts, so no RIF process is necessary when their contracts are not renewed.

Lori said...

Thanks, SP. Is it just me, or does that look like a 5-tier bus system, not a 3-tier system?

Seriously, do they think this nomenclature is helpful or clear to parents? For example, how can there be 2nd and 3rd tier elementary schools but no 1st tier elementaries? As with everything else, even the names for the tiers are rushed and nonsensical.

High School & Middle Schools between 7:30 a.m. – 2:35 p.m.

First Tier Option K-8 Schools between 8:00 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Third Tier Option K-8 Schools between 9:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Second Tier Elementary Schools between 8:35 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.

Third Tier Elementary Schools between 9:10 a.m. – 3:45 p.m."

Anonymous said...

from Susan Enfield to staff:

Good morning,

Due to ongoing budget limitations, the School Board on May 2 authorized a very limited Reduction in Force this year. Given our growing enrollment and our priority to protect funding that directly affects our classrooms, we have worked hard to ensure we maintain and retain the backbone of our District – our employees.

Unfortunately it is necessary for us to reduce our staffing in a few areas by up to 45 positions, including 17 Classified and 28 Certificated staff, primarily in the areas of counseling, Physical Education, Music, Career Technical Education and English Language Learners. Affected staff members in these positions were notified during the past several days about this RIF. In total, we also eliminated 11 Central Office positions.

Although this is a limited Reduction in Force compared to previous years, it is not easy and has a tremendous impact on those employees who will lose their position. I want to thank those staff members for their service to Seattle Public Schools and our students. Our Employee Assistance Program, together with the Seattle Education Association and Human Resources, are offering a resource program for Classified and Certificated staff on May 23. This program will include information about unemployment, benefits, job search resources, as well as the Right to Return process.

I want to thank our Budget team and our Human Resources Department for their work this spring. It is our goal to present the Board a balanced budget by June 20th, and our Budget team is working hard on finding ways to protect classroom funding in these challenging budget times.



Susan Enfield, Ed.D.
Interim Superintendent
Seattle Public Schools

Counseling is the only position not capitalized in the letter, a reflection of the devaluing of socioemotional and guidance needs of students in the district. One third of the cuts to certs were to counselors. This is after two previous years of taking the deepest cuts in the district.

Counselors are disappearing in the N, E, S and W. and for all the wrong reasons. All over the city school communities are finding their counselors are gone and boxes of test packets fill the space where they once stood.


Anonymous said...

At Sherry Carr's community meeting on Saturday, she shared a draft transportation plan that showed a beginning pick-up time of 6:40 am for the middle/high schools. This is way too early in my opinion.


suep. said...

The transportation plan is a mess.

The district should not change anything from this year unless it's clearly an improvement. This clearly isn't.

Otherwise, a district-wide protest in the fall in which all SPS middle and high schoolers show up to school in their pajamas might attract some national media attention to this farce.

A Pajama Protest at tomorrow's school board meeting could be compelling too.

dw said...

po3 said: All to save $200K-$500K and we know it won't be anyhere near $500K.

Agreed. Based on past results, we should assume $200k savings, if that. Remember how well the previous estimate worked out.

Here's some perspective. All they'd need to do is lose 2 headcount downtown to save the same amount of money. But instead they'd rather spend hundreds of person-hours diddling with the existing plan, ultimately affecting 10s of thousands of kids.

Just leave things as they are this year unless there is a very, very clear path to savings without messing with families. Something like Eric B's changes from larger to smaller buses.

Another thought is that often big changes like this take time to get the details ironed out. It's possible that this year's transportation plan, with a few tweaks for next year (not substantive system-wide changes) could end up with the same amount of savings, which is a relatively small percentage.

Anonymous said...

The only thing to say to the projected $200,000 to $500,000 savings is "Please show your work." Like in math class, remember?

And remember folks...I'm outta here!

-Sue in Zen Field

Anonymous said...

SP -- you said "Note- This schedule above is what the Board will vote on tomorrow, but Bob Westgard has added that at a later date, 6-10 elementary schools will be moved to the later tier, but that will be a separate Board vote later on."

Is that in the revised plan posted online? Can you point me to a citation for that b/c I'd like to use it in my letter to the board.


Maureen said...

Have other people's kids reported issues with taking the MSP on computer? My 8th grader says the computers kept flaking out during her tests. She had to keep working on the math exam through lunch to get it done and is pretty sure she ended up skipping at least one question. She said it happened with lots of kids not just her. I'm wondering how many kids just give up when it cuts out on them multiple times? I asked if she thought the proctor had to make a note when the computers weren't working right and she didn't think so.