Monday, June 11, 2012

Trying to follow the policy review project

The Seattle School Board has launched a big project to review and update all of their policies. Phase I of this process is complete - they have renumbered the policies to conform to WSSDA conventions, they have added some non-controversial policies that other districts typically have but Seattle was missing, they deleted some non-controversial superfluous policies, and they have done some work to thoughtfully re-write the governance policies (series 1000). They are now in Phase II in which they review and thoughtfully revise other policies. Many of these revisions will be the subject of some contention and people should try to pay attention to the Phase II process as it occurs.

You should try, but they aren't making it easy. The information provided about Phase II of this process is badly out of date, incomplete, and inaccurate. It's hard not to take this as a sign of the Board's minimal interest in community engagement.

Here is a link to the Policy Review project web page.

The page has two links, one to the Phase II Policy Review Calendar and one to the Policy Book Preamble. Only the link to the Policy Book Preamble is dead and the Policy Review Calendar is out of date. That doesn't make it easy to follow the process. Take a look at the calendar and you will see a number of policies that were supposed to have been discussed in the C & I committee in May. The ALE policy could not have been discussed by C & I at their May meeting on 5/21 when it went before the board the week before. Nutrition Education? Wasn't on the agenda. High School Graduation Requirements? Nope. Enrollment Reporting? Didn't come up. Student Rights and Responsibilities? Not on the agenda. The Family and Community Oversight Committee policy was not discussed, although the superintendent procedure was shared. Research Activity & Test Administration? Never mentioned. Food Services? Nope. Superintendent Procedure 2163 was discussed, but it appears as TBD on the calendar. If you wanted to be there for it and you were using the calendar to know when it would be discussed, you blew it.

Moreover, there are draft policies written that are being discussed by Board committees, but the draft text isn't available, not through the policy review web page, not through the committee meeting pages, not in the Friday memos, not anywhere. The C & I Committee discussed revisions to the Program Placement policy, but you can't read the draft or comment on it because it isn't available. The policy revisions appear on the committee agendas, but the text does not appear in the minutes. This means that if you are trying to follow the Phase II Policy Review process, the only way you can do it is to attend the committee meetings when the draft policy revisions are presented and discussed and get a paper and ink copy of the draft revision - if they have any to spare.

If you go to the committee meetings, you'll see that the Board directors are not writing the policies. They are being written by Holly Ferguson. The Board is taking a passive role in the policy revision process rather than leading it. If they were leading it, then it would begin with a discussion by members of the Board about what the policy is supposed to do and how the current policy needs to be changed to more precisely achieve the task. Then Ms Ferguson would take that information and intent and use it to write the draft revision. That's not how it is happening at all. Instead, the board arrives at the committee meeting and reads the draft text written by Ms Ferguson - written without any apparent input from the Board. Then they sort of accede to it without expressing any real conviction about what the policy is supposed to do or say. The revision to the program placement policy is a perfect example.

The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee met on May 21 with this policy revision as the only Phase II policy revision item on their agenda. The Phase II calendar originally had them discussing seven policies on this day, but it was reduced to one. No one on the committee had seen or spoken about the proposed revision until they arrived at the meeting. They received a copy of it there for the first time. There was no discussion about why the policy was changed, how it was changed, or what the Board wanted the policy to do. They just read the draft and had no comment on it. They did, however, say that they were not ready to forward the policy revision to the full Board since they were just seeing it for the first time that day. Want to read a copy of the draft? Sorry, not available.

This is the Board's primary work. It is one of their three current initiatives described on their web page. The half-assed way they are going about this is deeply disappointing. Even more disappointing, however, is how they can't be bothered to do any community engagement around it.


SeattleSped said...

And you can believe that special ed families are waiting to have input on the revised SpEd policy. Watch that happen without community engagement.

Anonymous said...

Truth to the word on the street that Becky Clifford has announced she is leaving?


Charlie Mas said...

The policy review calendar has been updated today. Still, there are some mysteries about it.

First, the great majority of the work isn't even scheduled.

Second, in June, the C & I committee is scheduled to discuss ten policies:

1) Provision and Disposition of Instructional Materials
2) Nutrition Education & Promotion
3) Advanced Learning
4) Program Placement (calendar says May, but they didn't discuss it at the May meeting)
5) Excused & Unexcused Absences (calendar says May, but they didn't discuss it at the May meeting)
6) Students' Rights & Responsibilities (actually discussed at the April meeting; not sure why it says June)
7) Dangerous Weapons on School Property/ Student Posession of Weapons
8) Research Activity & Test Administration
9) Food Services (calendar says May but it was not discussed at the May meeting)
10) Disposal of Surplus Equipment and/or Materials

That's a pretty full schedule for one committee meeting. In fact, it simply is not credible.

Third, the revised program placement policy is scheduled for introduction at a board meeting on June 20, five days before it has been discussed in committee on June 25.

Yep. This is weird. It reflects sloppy work - not what we want to see with the policies.

mirmac1 said...

But Clifford's short-term plan was to set the long-term plan (this would be since last summer when she was appointed interim...)