School Board Meeting Agenda Sept 5, 2012

The agenda for the September 5, 2012 regular legislative school board meeting is now available online.

Let's review it!

The meeting is scheduled to start at 4:15pm. The public testimony comes at 5:00.

The Board knows, and has been told, that it is difficult for working people to reach the Board meetings by 5:00 on Wednesdays. They have no intention, however, of changing the time for public testimony. It is difficult not to see this as an effort to discourage participation by working people. Public testimony is the Board's primary community engagement and they have diminished it by reducing it from two sessions at every meeting to one, they have diminished it by reducing the speaking time from three minutes to two, and now they have restricted access by starting it at 5:00. Using myself as an example, I left work promptly on time and hurried to the last Board meeting. Despite my haste, I arrived at 5:25, too late to speak to the Board.

Public Testimony is followed by Board Comments. The Board members are not restricted to two minutes and they do tend to drone on.

There isn't anything very controversial among the business items for action this week. A cell phone contract that saves money and improves service - particularly "push-to-talk" service for emergencies, some contracts for Family and Education Levy money, the odd (but welcome) $2 million buy-off from the legislature to Representative Pettigrew, and the annual contract with the Experimental Education Unit at UW.

This section of the meeting should move quickly as the Board has seen all of this before and there is no one opposed to any of it.

Among the introduction items, however, we find some one item with some drama:

Item number 2 for introduction is for the Board to vote to recommend the approval of a conditional certificate for a Teach for America corps member. Yes, one. This vote would normally be a slam dunk since the Board is contractually obligated to recommend corps members for the conditional certificates. Oh, but wait. This Teach for America corps member has been hired to teach special education students on multiple subjects at Aki Kurose Middle School. The federal law that governs most of school, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has a special provision that declares Teach for America corps members as "highly qualified" under the terms of that law. There is, however, another federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which governs special education and has a higher standard for teacher qualifications. The candidate's qualifications for the job are a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, a WEST E endorsement in Social Studies and a WEST B endorsement in Special Education.

The Board specifically asked the staff if a conditionally certificated teacher was qualified to teach Special Education. The long and the short of it is this: Human Resources has confirmed that the candidate has the required qualifications to teach multiple subjects in a special education classroom.

It is worth noting that last year six Teach for America corps members were hired by Seattle Public Schools. Five of them are still working in the same assignments. This year, so far, there is only one hire. This is significantly fewer than the 20-25 that were anticipated by Teach for America and the previous district administration. The contract is scheduled for a review next year. Board members can ask for a review of the contract at any time.

It is unlikely that we will see people queued up to speak on either side of the Teach for America question on Wednesday, but there may be a few appear to speak specifically to the question of a corps member's qualification to teach Special Education classes. There has been no community engagement on this question. The community engagement section of the Board Action Report is blank. I would imagine that the District would want to hear from the Special Education PTA. Or, then again, maybe not. The Board has not shown any enthusiasm for community engagement (see above).


seattle citizen said…
Regarding the Intro Item, Approval of a request to OSPI to grant a conditional teaching certificate for ONE [caps mine] individual to teach in Seattle Public Schools:

So SPS needs to request a conditional cert because "[i]n the case of Teach For America teachers, the conditional certificate is being requested because circumstances within Seattle Public Schools 'warrant consideration of issuance of a conditional certificate.' "?
That's it? Circumstances warrant a conditional cert because circumstances warrant a conditional cert?
I have an idea: Let's start a list of reasons given by the district (and, complicitly, by the state) for there being a need for conditional certs. I'll start with the first one, noted at the beginning of this Intro Item:

"School Board Policy No. 5000 states that 'the District is committed to hiring those people best prepared and able to support the District’s efforts to improve teaching and learning for all students.' The School Board has approved a contract with Teach For America in order to provide for a broader candidate pool as part of the effort to hire higher quality teachers for our classrooms. This action implements the Policy and the TFA contract."

So this action implements policy? The policy of hiring "the best prepared and able to support" the district? Is it now, then policy to reach outside the certificated pool? I guess so. Somebody should tell the state that the cert laws have changed - you no longer need one.
Here's some more non-rationale for conditional certs for TFA, from the Intro Item, which further explains that it's necessary because it's necessary:

"...A conditional certificate issued by Washington State authorizes a teacher candidate who does not yet have a full teaching certificate to be the teacher of record in a classroom. A conditional certificate is issued for specific reasons and for a limited period of time. In the case of Teach For America teachers, the conditional certificate is being requested because circumstances within Seattle Public Schools “warrant consideration of issuance of a conditional certificate.” The option to hire Teach For America teachers is based on the candidate having “unusual distinction or exceptional talent demonstrated through public records of accomplishments and/or awards”2 through their admission into Teach For America.
Bringing forward a request for conditional certificates is specifically contemplated in the Teach For America agreement, Section I (C), which states “Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach For America teachers on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.”
Anonymous said…
What sort of special education class is the TFA at Aki going to be teaching? EBD? If so, those are impossible to fill with regular certs.

mirmac1 said…
Thanks Charlie for posting the agenda items. On the TFA action item, I want to point out that the same individual advanced for hire this year, didn't quite make the cut last year. Seems she didn't have all all the i's dotted and t's crossed. Of course, if parents weren't paying attention, I'm sure she would've breezed right in. But Enfield's lieutenant figured out we weren't just eating the lotus blossoms, so Sophia was dropped. In the interim, she has somehow achieved an endorsement in special education. Oops, not really. But that doesn't mean SPS staff won't try to bluff her way in again.

As SC notes above, the contrived rationale, developed under Jennifer Wallace (PESB) and TFA's own lawyers, is mentioned. Amy Valenti's asks TFA Alum Chris Carter at Hamilton:

"If you determine that you would like to wait for her to become highly qualified (meaning in this case passing the WEST-E in whatever subject they'll put her in), please let us know and a substitute will be assigned to the position until she passes the required tests, and a conditional rationale can be presented to the Board."

Hear that? "rationale?!" What a joke. And obviously she did not "become highly qualified' in special education because SPS lawyers and staff do not mention that she passed a WEST-E in that (apparently no-brainer) subject matter....

Right reader. So any ole babysitter will do? Besides the TFA hired for EBD at Washington last year, decided that was beneath her and left. What happened to the students? Who cares? Sounds like you ascribe to the whole "circumstances warrant" argument.
Mary G. said…
I am going to assume that the tests listed for this candidate are in error and that this candidate has passed the West-B as well as West-E's in Social Studies and Special Ed. I think the above-mentioned conditional certificate for TFA may actually meet the qualifications for "Highly qualified" under IDEA, see, but I may be wrong, as some of the language is different(?) as well as the WACs, that is only if social studies is actually part of the curriculum in her special ed classroom. In the special ed primary classroom that my son was in, there was only reading, writing and math curriculum, no science and no social studies.

Having said that, how is it possible that Aki Kurose was unable to find a more qualified candidate? How is this person with six weeks of summer school going to possess knowledge of special ed law, write an IEP, and be able to manage the multiple demands of behavior and academic needs of a classroom of special ed students? What parent would want this person teaching their child? What kinds of burdens does this placement put on other staff at the school?

These questions are all very concerning, and to me they beg my last, albeight snarky, question, "whose niece is she, anyway?

Anonymous said…
I recently finished my SpEd cert, and my understanding of the qualifications for teaching SpEd at the secondary level is that you must be Highly Qualified in every subject that you teach. So if I were to teach SpEd Math and SpEd ELA, I would have to have the SpEd endorsement AND past the WEST-E in Math and ELA. The only SpEd teachers that aren't required to pass the WEST-E's are those whose students are only assessed using an alternative portfolio.

And I would like to say that the ONLY reason I haven't applied for the MS/HS EBD jobs in Seattle is because I don't meet the minimum qualifications-those being passing the subject area WEST-E's.

mirmac1 said…
And to demonstrate who's related to who, or who's in bed with who, I see that OSPI has taken its HQT Resource Manual off its website, (just in the last few days, mind you) noting it is "currently under revision". This is probably because it said in multiple locations that SpEd teachers with conditional certs are NOT considered highly qualified. Probably because conditional certs do not carry endorsements and the IDEA calls for endorsements. Odd, why wouldn't they leave it up while they were revising it? Oh yeah, because they are busily rewriting those "regulatory obstacles" the PESB said it would take care of.
mirmac1 said…
Aaah Rachel. I see that the Ed Reformers who bluster about teacher performance and "raising the bar" are busy lowering the bar for their TFA darlings.
Unknown said…
Odd. Last year, in an e-mail from Holly Ferguson, she told the Board that TFA were NOT qualified under state law to teach Special Ed. There seems to be a lot of machinations to get this person in and you have to wonder why.

Now I'm sure that TFA is tearing its hair out that they can't get more of their teachers in. The fact of the matter is our site-based hiring teams are doing their jobs and finding fully-qualified teachers over 5-week trained ones. Pure and simple.

Now, of course, they are going to work hard (and look for massive donations) to the Yes on 1240 campaign because charters LOVE TFA teachers and vice versa. In fact, there is increasing research on this topic that I will post soon.

Something to ponder.
seattle citizen said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said…
It's almost laughable that there is only ONE TFA person this fall. Guess that's not workin' out for TFA, eh? What's that, a total of six? For all that effort, all those shenanigans, a whole new program set up at the UW, and all the ill will they generated amongst their teaching staff? For SIX TFAers?
Anonymous said…
Thanks Seattle Citizen for the insightful description. It brought to mind Joni Mitchell's "Banquet":

"Some get the gravy. Some get the marrow bone.
Some get nothing, though there's plenty to spare."

mirmac1 said…
There are only five speakers signed up to testify at the Board meeting. I recommend parents who are concerned about minimally-trained liberal arts majors teaching middle-school self-contained special ed students may want to show up.
Charlie Mas said…
The poor turnout for public testimony is a direct consequence of the timing of the testimony.

It is very difficult for working people to get to the Board meeting by 5:00.

The 5:00 start time for public testimony isn't working.
Anonymous said…
Charlie - what about the 30+ speakers at the June and July meetings? Could it just be there isn't anything hugely pressing to parents right now, and they're more worried about today being the first day of school?

mirmac1 said…
Getting there by five may discourage all but the most dedicated citizens. Particularly if there's an afternoon Mariners game. Fuhgeddaboudit.
Maureen said…
I'm trying to watch online, but the sound has cut out. Aaack.
Anonymous said…
I had the same frustration! Any reports from folks who were there?
--annoyed with the cable
seattle citizen said…
Thinks Seattle Citizen meant to write, "120 billion" siphoned off as profit using TFA and charters, not "120 nillion."
Seattle Citizen, I'm guessing, has no idea how much a "nillion" is. Seattle Citizen should also proof read more often, an oft-stated goal sadly unrealized.
StopTFA said…
nillion? I believe it. Amazing. So somehow the SpEd TFA hire was pulled because (so they say) they couldn't get a hold of her. Not because she didn't have a SpEd endorsement or a math/LA/science endorsement, or failed IDEA HQT or anything.

They DID however use the time to, not intro, but give an "update" and say they MAY ask for an intro/action for a poor hapless TFA candidate in science who shouldn't be required to have any info revealed before action because we all know what a damn good job SPS and TFA has done to make sure these folks don't get any waivers or favors that someone who actually has committed to teaching as a career might get.
seattle citizen said…
This post in its earlier form was an embarrasment to me, so I deleted it, edited it (FIVE spelling corrections!) and here repost it...Sorry! Sorry...sorry about that....:
Of course the edu-business loves TFA AND charters: They go hand in hand in bringing about the new paradigm. What any free market, labor busting profiteer wants is to have high profit and low labor costs. If you can sell TFA to enough graduating college students, grads with a tough job market (brought to us by the same "investors"), promise enough of them two years of tax-payer pay (out of the same tap that charter investment companies promise investors is safe investment because it's taxpayer money), then you can staff a whole bunch of "public" schools (charters) with a two year, rotating staff who is paid only half what a seasoned professional makes.

It's all brought to us via standardized tests: These devices are used to declare schools "failing"; to then bring in charters merely on the promise of higher test scores; to render base the wonderful depth of education and thereby deprofessionalize education ("anyone can do it! You just have to teach to the test!"); bring in TFA because they are "eager" to "improve test scores"...
And there you have it: A whole new system predicated on the standards. Of course, this ISN'T about the students, as they claim, because of course children need oh, so much more than mere base "standards," but it brings about the goal of cutting labor costs in half and freeing up gobs and gobs of profit.
Let's see...four million teachers making, say, 60k...halve that for 30K x four million = that's 120 nillion to be siphoned off as profit. You just have to demonize REAL teachers, thereby demonizing schools, make education all about the standards and hire some cheap short-termers. Then it's all gravy.
Unknown said…
There were a couple of interesting things at the board meeting today. First, there was a contingent of about 8 TFA folks sitting on one side of the room, Lindsay Hill included. At one point one of the group members spoke to Miss Hale, perhaps to sign up to speak. However, after Cecilia's testimony this person went back to Ms. Hale and I suspect asked to have her name removed from the public testimony list.Hmmm....

Second, during the segment about the MOU, Director Peaslee read a very well-written but lengthy statement addressing some concerns. During her statement, DeBell and Smith-Blum were whispering to each other and at times laughing, conduct unbecoming of school board president/director.
mirmac1 said…
Sharon's statement eviscerated the district process (or lack therof) for this whole Creative Schools MOU end run around the board, around the community, and now around the judge! I urge you to watch the video when it's posted.

On the TFA matter. Dumping the SpEd novice took the wind out of my sails - and without having an edited agenda or SBAR, I didn't really have anything to go on with the new candidate. In a bald-face attempt to avoid transparency, English and Apostle just threw the name out there, and must've inadvertently mentioned Franklin and science.

As usual, the TFA pom pom girls DeBell, Carr, and Harium were more concerned about the "integrity" of the hiring process and protecting these young people from nasty ole scrutiny. I never hear them say looking out for the best interests of the students when espousing on TFA.

In light of the MANY issues in the past: defective hiring teams, WEST-E tests not taken, confusing WEST-B for WEST-E, made up assignments without the right WEST-E, taking a revisionist view of IDEA regs for HQ teacher, staff saying there are five of last years six left when one was let go, one is on the agenda's Personnel Report as moving to the displacement pool and another was confirmed to be gone from WMS by staff; it is imperative that the community be given the opportunity to do a fact check so that both SPS and TFA do what is required before placing anyone in the classroom.
mirmac1 said…
I understand there was an audio snafu during the board meeting. District communications is supposed to be rectifying this and alerting the public when it is corrected. Again, I urge you to tune into the Creative Approach Schools discussion.
mirmac1 said…
Dear Directors,

Forces outside the district pushed the ill-conceived Creative Approach Schools MOU, which is now defunct and requires a new vote by the board and SEA. Why do I say it requires a new vote? I will quote from the Board meeting minutes of February 15, 2012

In considering Director Peaslee's amendment at the time:

"Directors asked about the implication of making an amendment to the MOU. Ron English noted that the MOU would have to go back to SEA for their agreement on the item, but they would not be bound to approve an amended agreement. Directors asked if SEA would be willing to revisit this item. Jonathan Knapp of SEA addressed the processes that would have to be done to reconsider this item if amended..."

Those arguments against amending the defective MOU were made fairly recently; a mere 6 1/2 months and permanent injunction ago. How quickly we forget when it is inconvenient to remember. After the district's loss in court, somehow the charter bill failed, the world didn't end, and now perhaps SPS has the chance to get it right.

I find Director Peaslee's objections to the lack of process and forethought in devising and implementing this initiative, to be cogent and compelling. Where WILL the money come from to pay for the ramifications of a bad MOU? I KNOW it won't come from the Our Schools Coalition, Stand for Children, League of Education Voters, or any of the "players" who want to drive this bus. No, not even the FEL will provide "sustainable funding" for potential transportation, maintenance, and capacity issues that may result (Holly Miller's assertions to the contrary).

mirmac1 said…
(cont.) my email to the board

As you can see from the attached public records, these organizations expect to have a seat at the bargaining table, while at the same time minimizing the involvement of the very communities these schools would purport to serve. I find Lizanne Lyons "insights" very ironic, in light of the fact she lives on the Eastside; she points outs:

"While community buy-in is good, the "Broad participation of family and community members in developing the design" seems very vague to me and prone to weighing (sic) down the process."

Is the concern that the communities of, as Chris Korsmo mockingly puts it, "highly dysfunctioning, in a kumbaya, we all love our mediocrity sort of way" schools cannot be trusted or counted on to do those things these "education experts" want? How is it that relatively affluent Schmitz Park parents were allowed broad participation in the design of the K-5 STEM school at Boren? Perhaps because STEM is on these organizations' list of "must haves"? With that kind of attitude, I am very gratified that the RBHS PTSA President and VP sued and prevailed in court!

Holly Miller and crew at City Hall have an equally condescending viewpoint, deeming the 80% approval requirement to be "silly" and "unsuited to schools whose staff maybe(sic) the part of the school's problem". The disdain of teachers is evident in Ms Lyon's concern: "Will the ability of staff to move into the displacement pool if they opt out, rather than having to find themselves a job at another school, create a financial liability for the District?" Frankly, why does SPS give her money? Can't she find a job at another district? (I say that only half in jest.)

Finally, with these kinds of anti-labor sentiments expressed by those who would pressure individual board members to approve a bad MOU, I continue to be amazed that SEA leadership thinks this is a good deal. Doesn't Jonathan Knapp recognize that the SEA is not a true partner in this agreement; that the CAS is just an SEA "ploy"? I hardly think his membership would appreciate the attitudes of these "players".

Directors McLaren, Patu, and Smith-Blum, I urge you to get it right this time and take this MOU back to the drawing board. This time, can we have more parent and community involvement in the preparation of a new MOU. Do not let these players kick us and teachers to the curb.
Charlie Mas said…
During the discussion of the conditional certificate one board member raised questions about how the candidate met the requirements of the law.

Director DeBell countered with the suggestion that it would be inappropriate for the Board to second-guess a hiring decision.

Generally speaking, I would agree with Mr. DeBell on this point. The District will operate more smoothly if the Board concerns itself with governance and stay out of management and if the superintendent and staff concern themselves with management and stay out of governance.

This case, however, is an exception. Not because the candidate is a Teach for America corps member, but because the law requires the Board to confirm these things.

Historically, the Board has simply taken the staff's word for it. This was always inadequate and from time to time, sometimes notably, the staff's claims proved false.

So, yes, normally, the Board should not second-guess staff hiring decisions - except when the law requires them to do so.
mirmac1 said…
Yep, how can they agree that "circumstances warrant" if they don't know the &#%$!* circumstances - or care!
Charlie Mas said…
Let me take the one last step to connect the dots completely.

I wrote: "So, yes, normally, the Board should not second-guess staff hiring decisions - except when the law requires them to do so."

When the Board ignores the law and refuses to fulfill their duty under the law - as they routinely do in these cases - they are perpetuating the lawless culture of the District.

Let's remember that institutional culture flows down from the top. When the people at the top demonstrate a contempt for the law, that attitude is reflected all through the rest of the staff.

The Board routinely demonstrates a contempt for the law and, hence, the District reflects a culture of lawlessness.

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