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Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Open Thread

There will be a memorial tomorrow for Ballard High School teacher, Megan Vogel, a Golden Apple award-winner. 

From Ballard High School: “She is missed by her family, friends, colleagues and the hundreds of BHS students and graduates that she had a profound impact on. We will join together this Saturday, August 25th from 1-3 pm in the BHS Performing Arts Center for a Celebration of Megan’s life. In lieu of flowers, please bring live plants to remember Ms. Vogel’s connection to the living world.”
For more, visit the Facebook page that was created in her memory.

I also apologize for not noting the recent passing of Louise McKinney, a longtime educator, in our city.   From the Times:

Louise McKinney was a philanthropist, patron of the arts and longtime educator who believed that all children were capable of learning, no matter their station in life.

As a teacher and later principal at a number of Seattle schools, she prodded and nudged institutions to do right by kids — especially African-American youth — and established scholarships to ensure that the brightest among them got a fair shot.

I also want to give a shout-out to Talbot Hill Elementary in Renton where they were recently awarded a "Coolest School" honor by Scholastic Parent and Child magazine.  Talbot Hill is a Title One school that uses an innovative student government program throughout the school day that integrates academics with civics.   (Another example of innovation in our state - Washington state and Washington State districts are not in a "status quo" by any means.)



What's on your mind?

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is going on in special education? Is there a leadership hire? Why don't we hear from the Superintenent about his values and expectations for special ed?

Parent educator

Anonymous said...

There are community meetings in Sept. and Oct. Sounds like a good opportunity to ask those very questions.

Wondering said...

I'm wondering about K class sizes around the district. As of this week, JSIS has two classes of 33 each. In addition, there are 7 siblings who were drawn out of school boundaries two years ago and who remain on the waitlist. My understanding is that teachers get paid a little more when class sizes cross a threshold, but these classes are huge for K. How are numbers looking at other schools? How big do classes need to be before school admin and/or the district decides to add another class?

mirmac1 said...

Sign this petition on, yes, Change.org to "Tell Teach For America To Give Low-Income Children Of Color Well-Prepared Teachers"

Benjamin Leis said...

Last year my son's K class had 32 kids when we first received information on the school year in August. By the time classes started, a new teacher was hired and the size was down to 26. I think but never confirmed that the union contract with the teacher's has size caps at either 32 or 28 that constrain the district from letting the sizes stay any larger.
Have you tried emailing your principal to find out what's happening?

Ben

Anonymous said...

I have been involved with the district for some time now and I find surprising to find how many district employees (along with other people) don't know the things I thought everyone knew. for instance, every year since 2008 (Pottergate) upper management has told everyone "There is no money" yet every year since 2008 they have received raises (not all but quite a few), even when there is no money. When asked "Why do you get raises and we don't They say; we are now doing more with less, we are trying to attract better qualified people, it's necessary to keep the staff we have. What the heck do they think the whole country is doing? You want to take a look at everyone/ anyone who works for the Seattle School District to see what they are costing the tax payers, check this link out and find a name. http://data.kitsapsun.com/wa-school-district/17001
I don't get it. I thought "no money means no money"

Don't get it.

SPSLeaks said...

I see from this recently disclosed public document, that JSCEE staff is in either the Sky-High club, or gets the usual 2-3%...

Must've been record profits last year...

Patrick said...

I, and others in my classification, would love to be getting the usual 2-3%! It's been four years since any of us got the usual 2-3%.

Anonymous said...

Teachers have received two .5% raises over the last four years. This has been taken back X4 by health care costs, furlough days and fewer prep days at the beginning and end of the school year.
It is disgusting to see what principals, mid and upper level managers are making.
We know that with their paltry skill sets they would make a quarter of their outrageous salaries in any other job placement.
I really don't understand why the public tolerates this while their children are crammed into ever expanding classes as teaching staff are continually cut because "there is no money".
It is up to parents to change this scam.

Urban Legend

Anonymous said...

I checked out the salaries of school teachers. Wish I hadn't! I started in 1991 and it took me over ten years (maybe 12?) to rise from $20,000 a year to about $30,000 give or take a thousand. Now, I see a two-year teacher at my school making $41,000 after two-and-a-half years.

Yes, teachers should be professionally paid. But why not a lower starting wage with a rapidly increasing schedule for those who prove themselves and stick with it since so many don't?

I guess I should just be happy that new teachers are doing well. But it sure took a long time for me. Those of us caught in the middle waited an extra long time for that eventual bump up which happened finally with the previous contract - I think the previous one. I noticed a significant raise finally. But it took fifteen of my current twenty years to get there. So keep in mind that your average experienced teacher wasn't making any huge salary when he/she started and certainly not $41,000 after two years. It just ain't so.

n...

Jet City mom said...

I guess I should just be happy that new teachers are doing well. But it sure took a long time for me. Those of us caught in the middle waited an extra long time for that eventual bump up which happened finally with the previous contract - I think the previous one. I noticed a significant raise finally. But it took fifteen of my current twenty years to get there. So keep in mind that your average experienced teacher wasn't making any huge salary when he/she started and certainly not $41,000 after two years. It just ain't so.

If it makes you feel better, with inflation 42,000 in 2010 is equal to a salary of $ 25,000 in 1991

Shouldn't a teacher understand inflation?

Anonymous said...

Well, it doesn't. I don't know much about how to figure inflaction, but moving beginning teachers from a starting salary of $20,000 to $30,000 and leaving your ten-year+ teachers behind, didn't feel very good to those of us stuck in the middle.

I'd like to see your source for that kind of inflation. Except for the housing bubble, I thought inflation had been fairly limited.

Guess I'm kind of hard a** about it. Sorry.

n...

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't a teacher understand inflation?

Flippancy doesn't replace citing a source.

n...

Jet City mom said...

With that, let's use the Salary Inflation Calculator to estimate what your income needs to be next year in order to keep pace with increasing consumer costs. The data for the calculator is based on the historical CPI (Consumer Price Index), as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the years 1913 to 2009.


http://www.free-online-calculator-use.com/salary-inflation-calculator.html

Jet City mom said...

Here's more
http://cost.jsc.nasa.gov/inflate.html

Anonymous said...

I am looking for advice as we are first on the waitlist for a school we really want our daughter to attend and it looks like we are not going to get in. According to the school, the principal attempted to open the waitlist to us and one other family, but was blocked by the district. The reason given was the need to save those spots for Spec. Ed kids who are in self contained (and will not be in the general Ed classroom at all). The class sizes are at 25 currently. I don't know if it will do any good, but I would like to speak with someone directly at SPS. Unfortunately, I can't get through when I call enrollment services. It is very frustrating because the actual school has given the green light, but is being blocked by District from opening the waitlist. We are preparing to go back to our other school, but am still trying to keep hope alive.

Also wanted to add that my kid was at Lafayette in kindy last year and class sizes were small and I think again this year because they just added a 4th kindergarten. I believe 2 of the classes were at 23-25 last year and two were at 18-20. It would not surprise me if this year is similar. 32 is huge. Wow. I hope those teachers have some help!

Hopeful Mom

Unknown said...

Hopeful Mom, well, they have to hold those spaces for Special Ed if they need them. It doesn't matter if the principal might think there will be space; he/she has a legal obligation to make sure that spaces are available for whatever kids are in Special Ed in the program that school has for them.

It's a tough spot but I can't see the district changing its mind if it is about Special Ed.

On the other hand, if it is just about a couple of space in Gen Ed, maybe. You could write directly to Tracy Libros but that's about all that can be done. If you are willing to wait a couple of weeks into school, both the district and the school will have a better idea as things shake out.

SeattleSped said...

Hopeful Mom,

The district has FINALLY figured out that SpEd kids have a right to attend the school they would regularly be assigned, but for their disability. Facilities has, heretofore, NOT taken SpEd kids into account when calculating capacity and planning for future buildings. I say kudos to the District. Unfortunately, too often principals would like to either a) push our kids out; b) pretend they're not there; c) keep them locked into self-contained despite the requirement to give them meaningful opportunities to interact with their typically developing peers, and teach them in the least restrictive environment (yes, that means regular classrooms, as well as lunch and recess).

Anonymous said...

I understand and sympathize with the need to hold the spots and am absolutely not trying to steal spots from special needs kids. I have friends with Special Ed kids and I completely empathize with the struggles they have to deal with in getting the services their kids need. It is a constant struggle. One of the reasons we want to move our child is she is in a gray area in having some moderate sensory issues that affect her every single day and can make getting through the school day a challenge for her (she copes remarkably well, but falls apart in other areas). We want what is best for her, too and are hoping this school will be a better fit for our child. Everyone wants what is best for their kids and that is what we are trying to do.

I will contact Tracy Libros and just get confirmation that we won't get in. Hey, at least I can finally buy school supplies.

Thanks. Hopeful Mom

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a story in Seattle Met magazine on STEM at Boren and Middle College.

It exaggerates a bit for comic effect.

Po3 said...

"Now, I see a two-year teacher at my school making $41,000 after two-and-a-half years."


The average yearly starting salary offer for workers who graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in the spring of 2010 was $48,288 according to the 2010 Fall Salary Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The Average New Grad's Salary | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_7431135_average-new-grad_s-salary.html#ixzz24bKIOAf2


.

Anonymous said...

Hopeful Mom, you can request assignment as a 504 accommodation if your child's concerns are such that a particular school is accessible in a specific way.

IMHO

Po3 said...

The average yearly starting salary offer for workers who graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in the spring of 2010 was $48,288 according to the 2010 Fall Salary Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Read more: The Average New Grad's Salary | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_7431135
_average-new-grad_s-salary.html#ixzz24bKIOAf2

$42K after two years does not seem like a huge salary.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if anyone can tell me what the implications, if any, of having an approx 2 week unexcused absence from elementary school (younger grades). We are planning a vacation to visit family overseas and it has to be undertaken during the school year. I understand this would no longer be considered an excused absence. Does it matter? Is there any downside to having a long unexcused absence. Can we argue the trips educational value and get an exception on this basis? I'd appreciate it if readers could share any insight or experiences.

Not from around here

Anonymous said...

PO3: Yes, I agree that teachers should be compensated at professional rates. And, yes, I admit to some sour grapes due to my own bad timing. I was a bit older when I started and starting at $20,000 even in 1990 was hard to swallow even then.

My complaint isn't so much that new teachers are paid appropriately but that there was a group of us stuck in the middle who waited an awfully long time for that professional paycheck.

Again, just bad timing.

E-K: I didn't respond because I have no adequate rebuttal to your cost-of-living indexes or calculators other than to say those are general and can be argued on their merits by schooled economists who look at it by various sectors. No, I'm not one of them. But I know housing prices can inflate it just as gas prices will inflate our current index. So, I concede that you are correct as far as it goes. You point to a standard way of calculating inflation generally.

n...

Anonymous said...

Not From Around Here,

Logistically, you should just be able to inform the attendance office that you are going on vacation. There is a code for vacation that is different from 'unexcused'.

On another note, something to think about is the effect an extended absence can have on your student's learning. Opportunities to travel can be amazing, and family connections are invaluable. However, some students are dramatically impacted by missing that much school, others can manage it pretty well and pick-up skills without much issue. It depends a lot on your child, how much you are able to provide support for the missed learning, when you will be gone and which units will be missed.

Your student's teacher might be willing to put together some work or activities to help bridge the gap. Speaking as a teacher, this is often difficult to do because we don't teach with worksheets or packets. When those materials used they are to practice skills and strategies from interactive lessons.

I've always appreciated it when families let me know quite a bit ahead of time, a month or so, to give me a heads up about the absences and then follow up a week before leaving. It's worth asking the teacher if they think the absences will be a hardship for the student.

If the teacher agrees to provide special materials for you, please have your child complete them. The teacher will have put time into preparing them so your student can re-enter school as smoothly as possible.

-one teacher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not From Around Here - it's a bit of a crapshoot because the district now allows that discretion to the principal. You might have a principal who says they will excuse it or you might not.

You could go to your child's teacher with an academic plan of how you will support learning while you are gone. I can't see a teacher saying "sure I'll make up lessons for two weeks for your child" but if you come to him or her with a plan, the teacher says okay, the principal may go along.

That said, it's probably not as bad at elementary but it will go on your child's record. I'm not sure how the district processes that but your child's grade will likely suffer in some way that you cannot undo. Only you know if that matters in the long run.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not From Around Here - it's a bit of a crapshoot because the district now allows that discretion to the principal. You might have a principal who says they will excuse it or you might not.

You could go to your child's teacher with an academic plan of how you will support learning while you are gone. I can't see a teacher saying "sure I'll make up lessons for two weeks for your child" but if you come to him or her with a plan, the teacher says okay, the principal may go along.

That said, it's probably not as bad at elementary but it will go on your child's record. I'm not sure how the district processes that but your child's grade will likely suffer in some way that you cannot undo. Only you know if that matters in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Not from around here:

At our school, the principal does code vacations as unexcused. Also, parents are expected to create a learning plan. She has thankfully let teachers off the hook for such a plan. In my experience, plans created by teachers have about a fifty percent chance of actually getting done. Some parents are vigilant and others are not.

Traveling is so valuable - esp. overseas. Reading and writing can certainly be maintained if parents consistently monitor journaling activities and demand that daily reading continue. "Monitoring" of course means demanding excellence and paying attention to writing skills including conventions. The reading should encompass different genres. Comic books, Matt Holm or Captain Underpants will not satisfy expectations.

Math is a different story. Losing a year of math can be very difficult to catch up unless parents look over the grade level expectatioins and feel comfortable they can teach those skills themselves.

Perhaps looking over a copy of common core standards or taking one with you would give you a guide to how to help your child keep up. If you have confidence in your ability to supplement your child's learning in those areas, you're probably okay.

This is what I tell my parents. Not all teachers will agree with me. Different strokes and all.

n...

Anonymous said...

Hopeful Mom, the issue with sped kids. The sped kids are entitled to a general ed seat. Period. They get to be in general education TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT POSSIBLE. That's a lot different than "whenever the principal thinks it's ok." Previously, there was no seat for them at all, so principals refused to seat them. If the principal told you "but those sped kids will never be sitting in those seats"... well, that's an illegal statement on the part of the principal, unfortunately rather common in Seattle. It looks to me like the principal is using the funding he/she receives for special education students for the purposes of reducing general ed classize rather than for the benefit of special education students also common in Seattle. Kids pay for their seat, but don't ever get to sit in it.

-sped parent

SP said...

re: Excused/unexcused absences for foreign travel--

Go for it! 10 school days is nothing in the big picture compared to what your student will absorb and observe. We have done this many times and our kids always have bounced back (academically fine & culturally enriched beyond measure).

Nuts & bolts- Read the new SPS Board Policy 3121 & specifically the Superintendent Procedure 3121SP. Planned excused absences specifically include "educational trips or other special one-time events", and your request should reflect this definition, as well as include the "educational plan" (a journal at any age is a great start, and add in practical math ie currency conversions, maps with distances etc.).

"2. Planned absences are excused when the parent submits a request to the
Principal or Assistant Principal at least three school days before the
start of the planned absence and the Principal or Assistant Principal
approves the absence. Planned absences may include, but are not
limited to, medical appointments, religious events or holidays,
educational trips or other special one-time events. The school principal
has the authority to determine whether a specific request for a planned
absence is to be excused. Long-term excused absences or a succession
of long short-term absences over the school year may affect whether
the student will be promoted. Schools and parents/guardians are
encouraged to develop educational plans for students to mitigate loss
of instructional time caused by planned absences."

Finally, it is in the school's (and the district's) best interest to accept your trip as an excused absence, because there is a push for state funding to be cut for unexcused absences, and OSPI is carefully monitoring these absences.

(the policy's mention of "mitigate loss of instructional time" really amuses me as the district ironically requires our students to miss 6 full days + 5 half days in elementary school from the state required 180 days as a required cut from instructional time each year)

Anonymous said...

To sped parent.

The gen ed/spec seat issue is an assumption I made based on a short conversation I had with a staff person and not necessarily what happened or what is really going on behind the scenes. I can see the can of worms I opened by trying to do what is best for my child and asking for advice here. I do think it is interesting that some schools can have 32 kids in a class while others limit it to 25. I guess that is left up to the staff at the school, so our not getting in is most likely due to the desire at this specific school, to keep class sizes low and not necessarily the special ed issue. Great for the kids at the school, but not so great if you are hoping to get into the school. Again, I am just trying to do what is best for my child. I don't think anyone is out to steal general ed seats from special ed kids who need them and want to participate in as many general ed activities as they can. I am sure the staff at the school feel the same way and any assumption otherwise was wrongly implied by me.

Thanks, Hopeful Mom

SeattleSped said...

Hopeful Mom,

Don't take our comments as rebukes. Your question simply gave sped Parent and me an opportunity to inform others about what has happened, and continues to happen at SPS. Like you, we want the best for our children, but often find principals who are ignorant of the law and best practice. Having attended a number of the Facility Master Plan, building specifications, and capacity management meetings, I am pleased to note that some at SPS are finally acknowledging that they can no longer ignore SpEd building needs.

If, in fact, the school in question is K-5 STEM at Boren, then I am particularly bemused. The principal actually applied to be the head of special education, instead landing this other gig. By opening the waitlist despite full enrollment, she would have virtually guaranteed overfilled classrooms when our kids tried to claim their general ed seat.

Anonymous said...

I understand Madison's Assistant Principal Sarah Talbot is going to RBHS. Wonder when they're going to post the job?

RBHS will have to train her in cultural competency...

been there

Anonymous said...

From Seattle Schools News:

Mercer Middle School named high progress "Reward School" - making the prestigious list of the top-performing, most-improved Title 1 schools in the state...As a high-progress Reward School, Mercer scored in the top 10 percent of Title I schools in reading and math (combined) on state assessments for its “all students” group.

It's amazing how changing the math curriculum can help improve math performance.

parent