Seattle Schools This Week

As summer is slowly winding down (but not temperature-wise - yay!), the number of District meetings is slowly ramping up.

Monday, August 13th
Curriculum&Instruction Meeting from 4-6 p.m.  This is quite the folksy agenda as practically everyone is IDed by their first name.  I'm thinking this isn't a final agenda as there are number of scratch-outs.   There are a number of policies to be discussed including Ensuring Educational Equity, Advanced Learning, Definition of a High School Credit, Copyright Compliance, and Equitable Access Status Review.

They were to discuss the Creative Approach Schools Board oversight process but sadly, that is scratched out.  I'll have to ask why as I think this is a big deal to those who were hoping the process would move forward quickly.  It isn't even in the "parking lot" list. 

Wednesday, August 15th
Board Meeting at 4:15 p.m.  Agenda (it's a huge one).

To note; the alternative certification item that had previously been scheduled (around TFA applicants) has been pulled in order to have full vetting of the item.

Among the agenda items:
-the agreement with City about Families & Education levy.  It has come to my attention (and I'll have to ring up the City's Education office) that the Levy had some fine print that may work against some schools.  There may be fewer Family Support workers than previously thought.

- I note, as has been reported by others, that Policy 0030 has been amended to Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity.  Hmmm.

Racial Equity Analysis Tool: We believe that by utilizing a racial equity lens, which is short (four to five questions) and easy to use, Seattle Public Schools aims to 1) provide a common vocabulary and protocol for evaluating policies, programs, professional development, practices and decisions for racial equity and 2) produce policies, programs, professional development, practices and decisions which result in more equitable outcomes for our students. (paraphrased from Portland Public Schools Racial Equity Lens)

- approval of the Annual Highly Capable application to OSPI (Charlie's favorite) - a rather pro-forma action as the Board never questions anything in this application

- the approval of the Experimental Education Unit contract with the EEU of UW for ed services for Special Ed students, ages 3-6.  It jumped nearly $200k since introduction from $763,886 to $968,866.  It is stated:

The additional dollar amount is to provide additional preschool seats/classes and to provide general education staffing cost that aligns with a traditional elementary school basic education component to the EEU Kindergarten.

So that amount it turns out is for 12 extra preschool kids to 68 kids.

-acceptance of a Distressed School Grant award from the state for $9.4M to help in renovating John Marshall, Louisa Boren and Van Asselt buildings. It will be used to supplement/replace BEX III and BTA III funds that had been previously assigned to those schools.

- action on the District's affirmative action plan. State law requires the District to develop, adopt and implement an Affirmative Action Plan. The adoption of the Plan will satisfy this requirement as well as help ensure the District’s policies are properly implemented without unlawful discrimination. Did not know this - interesting.

- Policy C56, now 2200.  This one still has Holly Ferguson's name and phone as well as Wendy London's (but I thought they were gone).  This, of course, is the program placement policy that Charlie has written extensively on. Here's the latest in the action report:

At the committee meeting on June 25 there was substantial discussion about how this process works, how the district can improve our communication to the Board, the school communities and the general public, and how to report decisions and possibilities to the Board.

In the end the edits made after the May 21st meeting were retained, and the paragraph about reporting the decisions to the Board was strengthened. The proposed new model is to provide the Board with a quarterly update on what decisions were made and why, as well as a preview of upcoming decision points, if those are known. The intention is for the quarterly report to be relatively brief and high level, and is designed to keep the Board informed about the decisions.
Then the annual report should provide more detail about the decisions and rationale, as well as identifying how the decisions relate to the eight decision-making criteria outlined in the policy.

The Board acknowledged that there have been substantial staff reductions since this policy was put in place in 2007, and that what used to be the process is no longer feasible.  Staff outlined the new process that is being put in place, with the departments of Teaching & Learning and Operations working closely together to identify solutions to program or service needs.

However, they still include the line:

Last, it is hoped that these amendments can help bring the focus back to the original meaning behind the policy, and that curricular focuses can remain community driven, rather than imposed by the district.

I'm not sure I see where "community-driven" happens in this policy.

Director McLaren has an amendment to the policy.

Some proposed revisions to the previous policy do not, in my opinion, sufficiently reflect the intent of the policy as originally adopted in 2007 (C56.00). Specifically, the current proposed policy no longer requires, unequivocally, that all factors in decisions about placement of programs and services be considered in a transparent manner, or that decisions must be made with consideration of equity and with a clear commitment to community engagement. As noted in the Board Action Report for July 3, 2012, the current proposal also deletes the paragraph noting that virtually any member of the Seattle School District community may make suggestions for new programs and services.

This amendment replaces several phrases and adds explanatory detail in order to emphasize the Board’s insistence on transparency, equity, and community engagement. It also clarifies the limits of the policy’s effect on the authority of the Superintendent. The issue of stakeholder suggestions is not included in the current proposed amendment; it may be appropriate at a future time to address this topic, because stakeholder suggestions can, indeed be valuable. The amendment also does not provide the definitions of program, service, and “curricular focus” – all of which are cited in the original Board Action Report for the proposed policy. It is important that these definitions be elucidated at a later time, so that it is clear what educational activities fall under the purview of this policy, and which, if any, do not.

- acceptance of a grant from the state for $2M for Urban School Turnaround Initiative (USTI) for Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach High School.  Now OSPI was directed to pick "two schools in the largest urban school district in the state" that are among the state's lowest-performing schools in the same community and be a mix of elementary, middle and high schools.  This is for "intensive supplemental instruction, services, and materials" for 2012-2013.  Priorities for expenditures shall be determined by the leadership and staff of each school.  This is state wording, not district wording.

This is one-time funding.

I find that phrase "leadership and staff of each school" interesting because the report says that Michael Tolley and Bree Dusseault worked with the principals on the development of the plan.  Are they considered leadership at a school in this case? 

Thursday, August 16th
Operations Committee meeting from 4-6 p.m.  Agenda
More policies and procedures from Series 6000, the internal audit plan for this school year, budget discussion over strategic priorities, birth to three contract and an interesting one, "redirect of lease income."  From where to where?


Anonymous said…
Is banda going to be at the board meeting?

Anonymous said…
What? No TFA intro/action? Not even intro? And somehow the achievement gap doesn't explode?

I commend HR for wanting to get it right this time. They're no longer Holly's whipping boy.

Lindsay Hill havin' a conniption
Anonymous said…
I'm sure Dessault and Tolley will push for dropping 2 million on consultants making all kinds ideas focused on blame the teachers - setting themselves up for post being a bureaucrat work.

there are probably a zillion supports those kids need, but - how would that help Tolley's and Dessault's career?


Yes, Banda will be at the Board meeting. (And thanks for the reminder, I have news of community meetings.)

dw said…
-acceptance of a Distressed School Grant award from the state for $9.4M to help in renovating John Marshall, Louisa Boren and Van Asselt buildings. It will be used to supplement/replace BEX III and BTA III funds that had been previously assigned to those schools.

Are there any strings attached to this money?

If not, this is hugely great news, right?!

Unless I'm misunderstanding, it sounds like $10MM "free money" added to BEX III and/or BTA III.
Anonymous said…
What school/students are they planning on putting in John Marshall?

Charlie Mas said…
I caught the last 90 minutes of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting today.

The policy process is seriously messed up. A policy is introduced in the committee and a Board member suggests a change. The staff say "You should bring an amendment if you want to change it."

Fortunately the Board member said, no, that the policy was coming to committee for review and changes BEFORE it goes to the full Board. Board member is right. The first draft of the policy has no presumption of quality. It was written by staff, not by the Board. It is the Board, not the staff, who has responsibility for making policy. It is the core governance task.
Anonymous said…
Does anyone know what the deal is with creative approach schools?
The "deal" is that the Board has to create some oversight for itself vis a vis CA schools and the process for choosing/retaining them. You know, do their jobs.

Why they are dragging their feet when much work has already been done by communities, I don't know.
Jan said…
Hurray for the board member who spoke up for board authority. Hope they didn't get an earful from HMM about the unseemliness of disagreeing or challenging staff!

It is amazing how the work done (or not done) in committee meetings, and the processes shine lights on the dysfunctional relationship between the board and the staff. The staff really DO think of the Board as "costume jewelry," -- just inexpensive accessories to their (the staff's) running of the District.

It is such a shame that this is/has been done so badly. So much really good thinking can come out of policy making, if it is done genuinely, and in the daylight.
mirmac1 said…
ditto, Jan.

I, too, applaud directors who remind staff who the f*ck they work for...
Charlie Mas said…
Also presented at the C & I meeting was the first draft of the Advanced Learning program policy.

The drafted policy is full of values statements but has no enforceable requirements. Why bother?

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