Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Conversion Charter Ambiguities

Initiative 1240's rules for conversion charters has some clarity, some flexibility, and some elements that make no sense at all. To follow along you'll want quick access to the text of the initiative.

Word Verification Back On

I put word verification back on because I read the blog comments on Google Reader and I am tired of scrolling through hundreds of spam posts selling Tramadol online to find the few real posts.

Hope this works.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who's In?

It's an interesting thing to see who has endorsed which campaign around I-1240.

First, you can thank me for the Yes side even having an endorsement page because they didn't have one for months.  But I kept calling it out at debates and I guess they got embarrassed.  What is kind of cute is the little mini-bios they have for every single person listed (but it does make the page look longer).

For variety, there isn't a lot of comparison.  The Yes is a lot of business groups/ed reformers and, for the elected officials, Republicans (with the "roadkill" Dems thrown in).

The No side/No side is quite varied and long on elected officials (but yes, very Democrat-heavy).

As far as educators and those in education, there is no comparison.  Educators, administrators and elected officials in education are overwhelmingly against I-1240. 

Community groups?  Quite a variety especially up against the Yes side.

Newspapers?  Very much for the Yes side but I note that there is an oddly same argument in most of the newspapers (almost akin to having received talking points).  At least three newspapers got it wrong about how many times we have voted on charters (which tells you how much homework they did in getting to their editorial opinions).

 Still there were some newspapers saying no like the Issaquah Press (which was interesting because their PTA folks in the region are charter-crazy), The Stranger, NW Asian Weekly, and Publicola. 

But I do want to call out some people who DID step up early to be counted as being against 1240:  legislators Gerry Pollet, Marcie Maxwell, Bob Hasegawa, and councilman John Stokes over in Bellevue.

In Seattle, City Councilmembers Nick Licata, Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell and Sally Clark stepped up to be counted.

This kind of political courage can't be overlooked because folks, if you want to see people clam up - talk about charter schools.  Mum's the word in some rooms.

Meanwhile, Mayor McGinn, Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Mike O'Brien, Tom Rasmussen and Richard Conlin look away and demur.   Okay but if it passes and they see the bad outcomes to Seattle schools, they DON'T get to say "I didn't know."  They DO know and they are choosing to look the other way.  That's on them to explain later on (especially if anyone is running for Mayor).

Then we have the curious case of the PTA.  I'll do a separate thread on this topic but as to who is stepping up, well, it's a head-scratcher.

The Washington State PTA DID read the initiative and DID find it lacking (hence their NO on 1240) but they studiously said they wouldn't campaign against it.  That is curious given that they can all read and understand ALL the outcomes to our public schools.  You'd think that would have galvanized them.

Then, the Seattle Council has a panel "discussion" recently about I-1240 that was not good. That it included an avid supporter of charters but no one from the No side made it a little suspect.  That the document handed out about I-1240 had a "pro" side but not a "con" side made that a suspect as well.

 And, the SCPTA says:
 SCPTSA doesn't have any plans for taking a position on I-1240.  

Why wouldn't the largest PTA council in the state take a stand especially when the state PTA did?  

I note that it doesn't seem like many PTA units took up this issue either. 

It is a delicate situation but if it passes, it will be a total game changer for our district.  It should matter.

Tuesday Open Thread

Very nice (and short!) No On 1240 to check out.

Kids, ready for Halloween?  Indulge me and let us know what your child will be.  (My youngest son at college grew out his sideburns for that "old" Elvis in a white jumpsuit-look.)

Is your school doing a Halloween costume parade/party?  I hear these got outlawed at several SPS elementaries.  Going door-to-door?  My house is the one with the black skeleton flamingos and the pumpkin bride.

But let's not forget to send prayers and thoughts and good karma to those on the East Coast suffering from Superstorm Sandy.  

What's on your mind?

Work Session on District Vision today

I'm not sure what this is about, but here it is:

The Board will have a work session this evening from 5:00 to 6:30 on the District Vision.

Here is the agenda:

  1. Call to order:  5:00 pm
  2. Work Session: District Vision
  3. Adjourn 6:30 pm
Yep. That's it.

Board Policy 1005, Responsibilities and Authority of the Board, says, in part:
Acting on behalf of the people of Seattle, the Board will fulfill the following functions:
Vision: The Board, with participation of the community, shall establish core beliefs and create a vision for the future of the district, formulate and adopt a theory of action for academic change, and shall formulate the goals and define policies and outcomes that set the course for the district.
So the Board needs to work on this Vision thing, and a work session is appropriate, as well as their Retreats, but I'm wondering where the "with participation of the community" part comes in.

I'm not able to get to the School District Headquarters by 5:00pm to witness this meeting first-hand because I have one of those job things, but I will look forward to reading the minutes of this meeting.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Banda to Present State of District Report on Thursday

Update:  The Alliance IS "hosting" this.  I'm sorry but since when does a sober and serious (and mandated by the Board report) have to be "hosted" by anyone?  I don't care if it's Perkins Coie's anniversary or if Sara Morris' husband works there or if it is free use for SPS - this is WRONG.

Still no word from the district.  Not a good sign, Superintendent Banda.

End of update.

Among the happenings in SPS this week, comes a notice that the Superintendent will release his State of the District 2012 report on Thursday, Nov. 1 at ...Perkins Coie LLC(?!) from 11:30 am to 1:30 p.m.

Folks, I just got this press release so I will call district communications as soon as I can to find out why:
1) it is being presented at a very high-profile law firm's offices downtown (is there some major announcement to come?)
2) you have to register to hear it and all members of the media are welcome but space is limited for the public.

I smell the fine hand of the Alliance for Education in all this. 

It will be videotaped and broadcast and the report will be on the website.

We HAVE a district headquarters with a huge auditorium where press conferences are regularly held and has plenty of room for the public. 

This is not a good sign and I think we should ALL e-mail the Board and the Superintendent and get this changed.  

schoolboard @seattleschools.org

Romney (Ann, not Mitt) Weighs in on Education

Would you like to know what Ann Romney thinks about public education in the U.S.?  From an interview in Good Housekeeping via Daily Kos, she asked about the issue closest to her heart:

I've been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people's lives if they don't get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers' unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.

The whole system is flawed?  You really can say that about all the educators and administrators who get up every single day to educate the overwhelming majority of the nation's children?   Or is it just the teachers union?  (Funny how your husband ran a car company and I'll bet he said the same thing about that union as well.)

Among her other views:
- only people who are "financially secure" should run for office AND after your children are raised (or someone is at home who will do it)
- what will help the economy are five things  (but she can't remember the last two and calls workers "human capital":

One is to get rid of regulation; one is to start using our natural resources; one is to turn to human capital, which is education, and get that working again; and...oh, I'm not sure on the last two! (Laughs)

Also, she seems to not know what a Gold Star mother is which for someone who aspires to be First Lady is very, very serious.  And, she seems to believe that her sons going off on a Mormon mission is the same as serving in the military.  A religious mission is fine but it is NOT military service in any way, shape or form.

If this is what Mrs. Romney believes about education, I worry about what her husband believes and would enact.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Teacher's Goodbye (with reasons)

 An update to this thread comes from this op-ed by Allison LaFave, a teacher in a charter school in NYC.  She says:

Last week, Deborah Kenny wrote an op-ed piece (in the NY Times) decrying the heavy influence of test scores on teacher evaluations. Kenny rightfully claimed that the practice “undermines principals and is demeaning to teachers” and leaves little room for innovative teaching and learning. She went on to say that test-based evaluations inhibit the “culture of trust" between principals and teachers and “discourage the smartest, most talented people from entering the profession.”

While I agree that test-based evaluations are inherently flawed (when was the last time our politicians, Democrats or Republicans, truly analyzed a Pearson test?), I am baffled by Kenny’s ultimate argument. It seems that Kenny bashes test-based evaluations because ... wait for it ... they make it harder for her to fire teachers she doesn’t like – specifically a teacher whose students performed “exceptionally well” on the state exam.

Teachers aren’t statistics, but they also aren’t part of some school-wide homecoming court. Administrators shouldn’t cast votes for the teachers they like or dislike. They should work to support all teachers who act in the best interest of students.

As someone who has worked in a non-union school, I can tell Ms. Kenny what violates trust between teachers and administrators. Knowing that you can be fired for your personality.  Knowing that there is a fresh crop of well-intentioned, starry-eyed Teach for America kids who can take your place in the time it takes to make a phone call. Knowing that you will be scorned for using your allotted sick days and guilted into working through lunch, during prep time, and hours after the final school bell rings.

As a society, we need good teachers.  But they cannot all be saviors, counselors, comics, AND able to teach their subjects.  As taxpayers, we are basically paying for teachers to teach the students to the outcomes that the state tests mandate.  

What is it we want from teachers?
End of update.

This farewell to teaching comes from a teacher in North Carolina via Diane Ravich's blog.  It is heartbreaking.

This could have been written any time in the last 5 years but that it comes as we face the challenge of I-1240 make it particularly applicable.  Why?

Because there are those who want to lay the blame for everything - everything - that is wrong in public education at the feet of public education.  The principals, the administrators and especially, the teachers.

Not the legislators for not funding schools or allowing poor legislation to be created or stand.

Not lazy politicians looking for a quick-fix or the next gimmick or fad.

And not a society that is willing to overlook two things.

One, 23% of American children live in poverty.  We are the only first-world country to have such a damning and staggering statistic and it is to our shame that we look the other way.

Two, remember the Great Recession?  That has plunged even more families (and their children) into poverty or near-poverty and stripped more resources from school budgets.

The Yes side pays lip service to the underfunding but insists that charters "have cracked the code" and will show the way.  Even though that has not happened in one district in this country with charters.  Not one district with charter schools in the U.S. has closed the achievement gap.  

Poverty does NOT stop at the schoolhouse door.  Also on the ed reformers lips - if you say poverty, they say you are a bigot because "you think poor children can't learn."  Absolutely false.

ALL children can learn but if a child is hungry, that child is not paying attention.  Can't see the board because that child needs glasses, that child can't learn.  Is on the verge of homelessness?  Worried and can't concentrate.

We ignore these issues at our own peril because in 10 years we will be at the same place - wringing our hands and asking why nothing is working.

I'm not going to reprint all what this teacher - Kris Monroe - has to say but here's what troubled and moved me:

Let me cut to the chase: I quit. I am resigning my position as a teacher in the state of North Carolina—permanently. I am quitting without notice (taking advantage of the “at will” employment policies of this state). I am quitting without remorse and without second thoughts. I quit. I quit. I quit!



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Also, in the "Could This Happen under 1240?" Category

Readers pointed out this news story - a charter school in Sacramento, just 6 weeks into the school year, closed its doors to 400 students.  Just like that.

The story comes from CBS Sacramento.  The CEO claims there are "safety" issues in a building that Placer County said can only hold 75 but had 400.  But the County also said that it didn't tell the CEO to shut down "not wanting to interrupt the school year." 

And in shades of SPS, here's how the parent meeting with the CEO went:

During a meeting with parents Tuesday night, Heimbichner spent the first 30 minutes of his presentation talking about the history of Horizon Charter Schools before someone finally stood up and yelled for him get to the point.

The angry interruptions became a common theme throughout. Some parents got so frustrated they walked out.

“He never answered anyone’s questions directly, and it was a waste of time and so frustrating,” student Diamond Matthews said. 

What was very sad is a little girl, about 9 or 10,  in the video who said a lot of people were upset.

“Some of them had meltdowns,” Claire Daggett said. “My teacher had one and it’s tough.”

This school is part of a charter group in Sacramento that has both bricks and mortar and online learning schools.  What is interesting is that their enrollment form asks for both race/ethnic background and income.  I believe it is okay to ask that as long as you DO tell people that they don't have to answer.  It doesn't say that on the application.

I'm fairly certain that to enroll in public school you do not have to give this information if you don't want to (except for income for free/reduced lunch services).

So could this happen under I-1240 - a charter suddenly closing?  Absolutely.  It's in Section 221 and it only says that the charter non-profit has to return public school funds to the district.  "The dissolution of an applicant nonprofit corporation shall proceed as provided by law."  

There is nothing about perhaps something like a 30-day notification to parents or the district the charter is in (presumably so they can prepare for the new students who will likely come their way).  Nothing. 

Also to note, in the Florida case with the principal who got $519K to shut down her 180 student charter school?  They had over $700K in public funds that SHOULD have been returned to the district.  Instead, the charter board gave her $519K, spent the rest on shutting down the school and returned a scant $10K to the district.  Yes, that could also happen under I-1240.  

The reporter in the piece did get one thing wrong when it was stated:

At the end of the school day, it’s the kids who are now left with nowhere to turn.

Yes, they do.  They have - and will always have - their traditional schools to return to because those schools take ALL students.  

K-8s (and does $1M a year extra at South Shore help?)

South Shore PreK-8 came up as a topic during a discussion over conversion charters.  I, like many, believe it would be a target (a willing one) for a conversion takeover.  I suspect you could get the parents or teachers to agree and I'm sure LEV, who now directs the foundation money that South Shore gets, would also be agreeable. 

That leaves the community and the district that may not like the idea of losing a $73M building to a charter entity.

One thing to keep in mind - ALL charters are their own districts.  If they take over a district building, they can decide the parameters - within the law - of public use just as SPS does.  If you use a school building for your local community meetings or Boy Scouts, you might have to find someplace else to go. 

I also don't know what it would mean for the joint-use agreement that SPS has with Parks for SPS playfields.  I would assume if a charter group takes over the building and its grounds and is its own district, they don't necessarily have to hold to the SPS/Parks agreement.

For those of you who don't know, South Shore has a long history in the district.   What happened is that Stuart Sloan, of QFC fame, wanted to help SPS.  That help first took the form of helping TT Minor which was a struggling elementary.  I don't know exactly why but the help came mostly to part of the school (I think it was grades K-2 but not 3-5).  You can imagine the issues that engendered and so that was abandoned.

The district then allowed the foundation, which was called the New School Foundation, to open South Shore at the old Sharples building.  About this time, the amount given to the school was about $1M a year and again, I'm not sure everything it supported but it did support some wrap-around services to low-income students.

Their move to Sharples wasn't exactly greeted with open arms as it was practically in the backyard of Dunlop Elementary and just down the road - a mile or so - from K-8 African-American Academy.  There was a struggle for students and when South Shore offered free pre-K, it got worse.

When you have a large number of low-income children, you can imagine the need.  But you can also imagine that any school in that category would have loved $1M extra a year.

I will also note that somehow - and I stand by this statement - South Shore got pushed to the top of BEX III even though they clearly were NOT in one of the worst buildings in the district.  It was a '70s open concept building with issues but one of the worst?  No. 

Because they got picked, it meant that Pathfinder K-8 in West Seattle didn't even though their entire middle school was in portables and their building was older and worse off.  So the district HAD to find a better building for Pathfinder, chose Cooper, scattered Cooper's students (and took a neighborhood school off-line) and now, well, you can see the capacity issues in West Seattle quite clearly because of this decision.  South Shore also has one of the more overbuilt schools in the district complete with a rotunda.

But someone here raised the question:  how is South Shore doing after all those years of extra dollars?  I did a fairly quick check of all the K-8s and South Shore does well.

Frankly, if we are "data-driven" district, then I see a red flag, a flare, something that screams out to me and that's WHAT'S UP WITH THE MATH? 

Clearly, something isn't working.  You can see good reading scores and then...the math scores.  It's hard to see how kids do uniformly well in reading and yet not do well in math.  (And by well, I'd like to see over 60%.)

Looking at K-8s (scores from 2011-2012):

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Schools Coalition Wants Your Input

The Our Schools Coalition, an Alliance for Education project funded by the Gates Foundation, wants to kibbitz once again on the negotiation between the teachers' union (SEA) and the District as they wrestle over the collective bargaining agreement. And they want you to tell them what they should agitate for. Provide your input here.

Just in case you question the propriety of their kibbitzing in the process, they have this blog post to justify it. Only that blog post doesn't give any reason that we need Our Schools Coalition to serve as the voice of the community in addition to the democratically elected board which has the duty to serve as the voice of the community to relay our priorities to the negotiators.

Google "charter Schools" and "financial scandal" - This is just the Tip of the Iceberg

Updates from the Orlando Sentinel, about the story about the charter school principal who got $500K when the school was forced to close.  I got it wrong - it was $519K and her take for the whole year?  $824,000. 

In June, the charter school's board cited Young for "leadership" and "providing an excellent educational opportunity for at risk and underprivileged children in Orange County" in its resolution authorizing the payout of more than $500,000 upon the school's closing.

A principal of a school of 180 kids and;

In 2011-12, NorthStar High School's directors paid Principal Kelly Young more than twice as much money as they spent on the school's educational program.

By comparison, the school spent $366,042 on instruction, including teacher salaries, last school year, according to an audit paid for by the school.

The school lacked computers, a library or cafeteria services at its facility in concrete portables on Curry Ford Road. According to the January report by Orange County Public Schools, the school's reading teacher was not certified in reading and NorthStar didn't have someone certified to teach English language-learners.

The school, which operated for 11 years, was never an academic standout. It's last grade from the state was a D, but it was losing ground last year. "It wasn't a good educational environment for students," said Christopher Bernier, who oversees charter schools in Orange County. "They weren't producing. They weren't learning."

Florida lawmakers are outraged:

"I have never seen an act that egregious in 15 years of working with charters," said State Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, a charter school business administrator who started a charter school 15 years ago. State lawmakers from both parties are calling for reforms to the charter law that would add transparency and accountability.

Montford said he's already drafting legislation that would make charter schools more accountable and transparent.

"There may be others out there, but we don't know," he said. "Florida is known for transparency. Why does it stop at the charter school door?"

End of update.

In the latest in how to lose public education dollars, this story from NBC News.   (I'll call out in red how this parallels I-1240.)  

A Florida state senator is calling for an investigation into the payout of more than $500,000 to the principal of a failed Orange County charter school.

A school board chairman blasted the payout of taxpayer money, which has sparked outrage in Orlando, as “immoral and unethical.” 

Kelly Young, principal of NorthStar High School in Orlando, received a check for $519,453.96 in June, about the same time the Orange County School Board accepted the school’s plan to close in lieu of being forced to shut down based on declining student achievement, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

The Sentinel also reported that Young was “still being paid thousands of dollars a month” at the time to complete the school’s affairs. The school serves about 180 students in east Orange County.

Young's payment was authorized by the charter school's independent board, which is separate from the Orange County School Board, in June. At the time, the independent board called it "well-deserved and earned for her years of dedicated service at a below-market rate of compensation," the Sentinel reported.

Orange County School District officials say they were unaware of the principal's payment because the school isn’t required to report it under Florida's charter school law, according to the Sentinel.
Young’s attorney, Larry Brown, said the payment was justified. "Here's a lady with no retirement, who at that point had put six years of her life into the school, feeling like she had to make provision for retirement in her contract," Brown told the Sentinel.  (Note; most teachers in charters don't have retirement in their contracts either.)

Money leftover from charter schools is supposed to funnel back to school districts upon closure.
According to the Sentinel,

NorthStar, which had a balance of $717,293 at the end of the 2011 school year, has not turned over any money to Orange County Public Schools.

A statement provided to the district by the charter school showed a balance of less than $10,000 on June 29.

More charter school scandals.   It makes Silas Potter look like a piker.  

This site is called...Charter School Scandals and is cross-referenced by charter group, foundations, and states. 

Friday Open Thread

Reminder - one Community Meeting on Saturday with Director Patu at Caffe Vita from 10 am to noon.

From the ridiculous/sad ed news: cheerleaders who seem more devoted to God than their team (that's a big NO from this ex-cheerleader - you're there for the team) .

And, a school that had, for years, an on-going "fantasy slut league".  The school had no idea this was going on (really?) and apparently isn't going to punish anyone.  What?

Have you voted?  It's the most important thing you can do as a citizen.

What's on your mind?

Crosscut Pro and Con on I-1240

Crosscut is running two articles on I-1240, one in favor and one opposed.

They are worth reading if only because the article in favor demonstrates the naive and thoughtless acceptance of every myth and marketing line offered by the proponents of charters. The person writing in favor of the initiative is a voucher advocate living in a rural area. He doesn't know what he talking about and he obviously hasn't given any of it much thought. It's sad, really.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Partnering Parents with Education

Education Week highlights a new publication, Promising Partnership Practices 2012, with 92 ways schools are partnering with parents and community.  The publication is for sale but individual stories are available as PDFs for free. 
  • "Me 2! Getting Parents into Middle School," explains how Park Middle School in Kennewick, Wash., created the expectation that parents would volunteer for two hours a year at the school. The campaign included tracking progress on the 1,800-hour goal and "talking up" the expectation with students.

  • "The A.S.P.I.R.E. Survey" is used at Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Conn., to find out what talents volunteers can share with students. More than 160 parents and community partners have gone through the small-group sessions to identify their skills and talents, which are matched to the needs and requests of teachers, administrators, and students.

  • At Scott Elementary School in Naperville, Ill., 350 students and their parents made it through a week without television—an experience that is detailed in "Survivor Week: National TV Turnoff Week."

  • "Life Happens," a Norwich (Conn.) Technical High School program that offered a series of monthly teen-centric seminars, coupled with programs for parents at a different time. Students responded to surveys to see what subjects they wanted covered, then doctors, nurses and Ph.D.s from a local hospital presented information on concussions, nutrition, sexuality, anxiety and bullying.

The Stranger Explains the "Property Tax Swap"

I have been desperate to get a thread on this issue because both McKenna and Inslee have been talking about it (along with Rep Carlyle and Rep Hunter) but pulling it altogether was going to be a task.  Enter Goldy with a good article (and a chart!).  It pretty much completes what I thought - Seattle and other "wealthier" districts would get less. 

My understanding of the property tax swap is that it would phase out levy equalization and yet, wealthier districts would STILL be subsidizing poorer ones.  I am all for equity but when every single district in this state is cash-strapped, it seems unfair.

Read on and tell me your thoughts. 

The Property Tax Swap (or "State & Local Property Tax Shift" as it is more technically known) is also the only one of four levy reform options to be dismissed as "Not Recommended" in the final 2011 report of the state's Levy and Local Effort Assistance Technical Working Group.

The idea is simple, though the execution is not. The state would increase the state property tax levy (which is technically a school levy) while reducing the cap on what school districts can raise via their local levy. Statewide, these two shifts would offset each other, meaning no net change in either total revenue raised or K-12 dollars spent. It is essentially an effort to achieve greater equity between rich and poor districts by shifting funding from local levies to the state.

But due to wildly different property values between districts (for example, Bellevue has $2.7 million in assessed property value per student compared to only $0.3 million per student in Yakima), this shift would impact different taxpayers differently. Homeowners in property rich districts like ours would see their total school levy bill rise (for example, by 22 percent in Bellevue), as would those in districts that currently raise little or no local school levy. But homeowners in some property poor districts could see their school levy rates slashed—by 31 percent, for example, in Pasco.

While a hold harmless protects districts from losing total funding, typically the growth rates of hold harmless funding have been flat, compared to the historical growth allowed under the M&O levy authority calculation.
Several urban and suburban districts would experience lower revenue growth rates and a property tax increase. This would likely increase the tension among districts regarding differences in total per-pupil funding.

MathFest on November 8

Bring your family Nov. 8th to experience Math like you’ve never seen it before!

Zeno is hosting its 7th annual Seattle MathFest – a FREE community celebration of kids and math! Registration is now open and over 100 volunteers are being recruited for this unique event that brings together over 1,000 elementary-age kids, parents, teachers, school administrators and community members to help kids build confidence in and enthusiasm for math through interactive games in a carnival-like setting. Come experience squeals of delight, high-fives and a chorus of cheers as you work your way through over 20 stations to play math with your family!

What: A city-wide celebration of elementary students and mathematics
Where: Rainier Community Center, 4600 38th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118
When: November 8, 2012, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

5:00 PM Doors open, refreshments served
7:00 PM Refreshment service ends
7:30PM Games close, awards ceremony and prize distribution begins
8:00 PM Doors close

Zeno, a Seattle-based non-profit organization, believes that with the self-confidence and skills gained by experiencing math in unique and unexpected ways, a person’s possibilities are infinite. Through their programs, like Seattle MathFest, Zeno reframes math as fun and relevant - all to build confident, curious kids who are Math Powered!

This free event is open to the public and Zeno partner schools. Interested in volunteering? It takes over 100 dynamic volunteers to host MathFest and we still need help! To register or volunteer, visit: http://seattlemathfest2012.eventbrite.com/ or contact Zeno at 206-325-0774.

Should We Fear the Unhappiness of Bill Gates?

I think I mentioned that a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution came out and interviewed me (and many others) about I-1240.  This vote is national news as Washington State is not only doing this again for the fourth time but is the ONLY state in the country to have ever had the issue of creation of a charter school system on our ballot. 

Sidebar to the "41 states have charter schools" argument:
- Washington state voters have said no three times to charter schools.
- 44 states have an income tax.  Washington State does not.
- 42 state legislatures have come out with some kind of statement/legislation against gay marriage.  Our Legislature?  Voted for gay marriage.

Whether you like or agree with ANY of those stands, it does point to one thing.  Washington State voters are an independently-minded bunch.  We are NOT followers and we take our time to consider an issue.  Personally, I like that in a state.

Back to Bill Gates.

So the reporter, Wayne Washington, asked about funding for both sides.  I explained that Bill Gates had funded the election in 2004, funded I-1240 getting on the ballot and yes, was the primary funder of I-1240.  He stopped me and asked if it was okay to print anything I might say about Bill Gates. 

I said, well, yes as I thought we were already speaking on the record. 

He said he thought I might not want to speak out publicly about Bill Gates.  I smiled and told him it was okay and we went on.

Afraid to speak out against Bill Gates?  Especially in this state?  Yes, I could see that.

Mr. Gates, via his company and his foundation, has done a lot for this state and the world.  It is a good thing when wealthy people give back (but you really should watch the History Channel's "Men who made America" - not such a pretty picture).

But we ALL know that Gates and Allen and now Bezos and Sinegal cast a huge shadow over our region.  They give and they take and they certainly expect elected officials to see things their way.  Always.

I think that it takes political courage for any elected official to take a stand on a controversial issue.  And, it's tough to be the first couple of people who put their hand up to be counted (and shout out to Gerry Pollet, Marcie Maxwell, and many others who did).  So I can see why the Mayor and other city officials might be cautious (or even worried) about who they might offend if they put their hand up.

But does Bill Gates really rule our region?  Is that where we are truly at that a reporter from another state perceives that someone might be afraid to speak openly against Gates and his stand on charter schools? 

It's not like he's the Godfather and will have me rubbed out but I think for others, the loss of standing/money/communication with Gates would be a terrible outcome.

I get that but it's still wrong.  We elect officials to think about ALL voters, not just the wealthy and powerful ones.  Is Bill Gates a more important voter than me?  Or you? 

We are now seeing that our initiative process is being taken over by wealthy interests (some of them from out-of-state).  The initiative process was supposed to be about citizens, grassroots citizens, binding together for a common cause.  That's now in danger.

We also see huge funding from a limited number of individuals being able to dwarf any grassroots efforts in the initiative process. 

And we see fear from public officials to even speak up on issues where they wealthy have taken a stand.  (I've had elected officials demur from even talking about 1240).  

This isn't really anything new but it continues to grow and grow.  We will lose control of our democracy if we allow ourselves - and our elected officials - to be silenced by anyone. 

BEX IV - Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

I confess - I haven't been able to keep up on BEX IV as I would have liked.  But I have noticed (and noted) that, true to form, this BEX follows the pattern of previous ones (except on steriods).

1. Changes to the list in the last month before it is approved?  Check.
2. Lack of clarity about changes and no fleshed-out explanations?  Check.
3. A Board in a hurry-up mode "because we have to get this done to get it qualified for the ballot in time?"  Check.

Again, it's a list of projects but you are really just voting for a pot of money.  They can change that list but that really isn't my worry.

It's that this high-cost, long-term project has not been walked through in a clear and deliberate manner.  What is it that is being accomplished and what does that mean down the road?

I note that the West Seattle Blog was at the BEX IV public hearing yesterday and it appears from their reporting, that the speakers list wasn't full.  That's not a surprise as I think parents are exhausted and confused.  

I also note that between now and the vote on BEX IV, on November 7th, there is just ONE Director Community meeting (that's Director Patu's this Saturday).

(I have said before that I don't get why, if there are seven directors, that there can't be one every weekend so parents have direct access to someone once a week.)

But this is a huge and important investment for the district AND for parents.  The district is going to ask PTAs and parents to get out there and sell these levies to their friends, neighbors and co-workers.  And yet, parents can't even get their basic questions out there, in person, to directors.

Yes, I know you can e-mail but it's not the same as looking someone in the face and asking them, as your elected official, why they like this plan, what it means and how it will affect your region.  (And fyi, pass I-1240 and you won't even have that option because if there are more than 3 school districts that sign on as authorizers, I'll be very surprised.  You are never going to be able to advocate to the Charter Commission and they aren't elected anyway.)

So BEX IV will clear the Board vote on November 7th, the day after an equally exhausting election season, but probably in a room of bleary-eyed parents, tired and worried.  Those parents will hear assurances that all is well and the district knows what it is doing (despite the evidence that they don't because if they did we would all see a clear narrative of what is being done and why). 

Or maybe, like the public hearing on the subject, no one will show up.

Seattle Teacher Residency Program

I have heard rumblings about this program and this press release does little to assuage them. 

The Alliance for Education, Seattle Public Schools, and the University of Washington College of Education on Oct. 24 announced the addition of the Seattle Education Association as the fourth partner in launching the Seattle Teacher Residency. 

Urban Teacher Residency United, (http://www.utrunited.org/ ), based in Chicago, is the national network of the highest-performing residency programs. UTRU Executive Director Anissa Listak said, “This is the first time we’ve seen a residency launch with this set of players at the table. It bodes very well for the success and efficacy of the initiative.” 

My first question is - why is the Alliance for Education involved?  This is NOT their area of expertise at all.  I have to wonder about their growing role in SPS which I find troubling.  

Urban teacher residency programs, pioneered over the last decade in Boston, Chicago, Denver and elsewhere, apply the medical residency model to teacher preparation. By blending classroom apprenticeship with aligned, graduate-level course work and an intensive resident/mentor partnership, residencies aim to accelerate student achievement through the training, support and retention of excellent teachers. The four anchor partners are engaged in planning and design work during the 2012-2013 academic year. The first cohort of 25 residents, matched with 25 mentors, will begin graduate coursework over the summer of 2013 and will start in SPS classrooms in September 2013. 

José Banda, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, said, “This partnership speaks to the power of collaboration in public education. A thoughtful, rigorous teacher pipeline initiative, informed by multiple stakeholders, will bring meaningful benefit to students across the district.” 

I have actually heard good things about the one in Boston but I wonder about TFA versus these new resident teachers.  Why have both?

In August, Dr. Marisa Bier was hired as the residency’s founding Program Director. “The mission of this project is to accelerate student achievement,” she said. “It’s tremendously exciting for Seattle to join the residency movement, and to do so in leading fashion with a uniquely strong, 4-partner anchor team provides a supportive foundation for achieving our collective goals of preparing and supporting high quality teachers in and for Seattle.”  

Okay, and who is paying for this?  No mention of funding.  Worth looking into.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can UW Be Promoting I-1240?

You may have heard of the Partnership for Learning, yet another business-based ed reform group.   They have just put out a document called Examining Charters: How public charter schools can work in Washington State.  It "examines" charters in other states and comes to the astonishing conclusion that we need them here in Washington State.

However, upon a quick read, I came upon a troubling issue.

It was written with the help of UW's Center on Reinventing Public Education.  Actually, the whole thing was written by CRPE's staff. 

Why is this a problem?

Because they reference I-1240 about 10 times as a good charter law and the entire document promotes charters. 

That would seem to be UW endorsing I-1240.  

Why is a publicly-funded university promoting an initiative?  That would seem to be a misuse of public funds especially since the entire promotional document was written by UW employees.

Something to ask the State Auditor about, I think. 

Scare Tactics

It's funny but that's what the Yes to 1240 side says constantly.  That people who point out the obvious outcomes of 1240 are using scare tactics.  Or "what are you scared of? It's just 40 schools." 

Okay, so in real time, in real experience, here's what's happening in other states:
  • number one on the hit parade is the state of Georgia where their charter ballot measure is about enshrining their charter commission into their constitution.  You'd think a state's constitution would be about questions for the ages but apparently not.  
What happened is they DID have a charter commission which then got ruled unconstitutional by their Supreme Court and so now there are some who feel, in order to keep charters going, they have to put it into their constitution.  The story here via Salon:

In March, the Georgia Department of Education released an in-depth report showing that students in the state’s charter schools perform worse than those in traditional schools. You might have thought such a conclusion would prompt lawmakers to at least pause on a constitutional amendment creating a new state agency specifically to create new charters. Instead, a week later, the Georgia Senate passed it with the required two-thirds majority. Voters will determine the amendment’s fate this November, deciding whether charter schools should be drastically expanded at the expense of the traditional districts.

Georgia has cut around $4 billion in funding for public schools over the last four years. The new agency would cost $430 million—money traditional school advocates say should be going to ease those budget cuts. The state would also have to give more funding per student to these charter schools than it currently gives to traditional schools; the new charter schools will not have a local tax base to draw on. That means more money siphoned away from traditional public schools every year, at a time when they’re still reeling from significant losses.

And fyi, Georgia has had charters for 17 years.  Their student scores are way below Washington State's.

The vast majority of donations in favor of the measure have come from out-of-state organizations, including a $10,000 check from the Koch brothers’ ultra-conservative organization, Americans For Prosperity. (By comparison, all but a handful of donations against the amendment have been from Georgia.)

Dear Seattle Times

The Times printed a story this morning that I was interviewed - extensively -for by Linda Shaw.  I was told it was about 1240 but apparently, from the headline and the contents, it is a piece about Lisa Macfarlene with a little bit of background "color".   I would link it but I am not going to give the Times any help.  You know how to find their website. 

I sent the Linda, Brian Rosenthal and the Executive Editor, David Boardman, this e-mail this morning.  It's sad because I know and respect all of them. 

Dear Linda,

That was quite the interesting article this morning which I was told, by you, would be about 1240.  Clearly, it is largely about Lisa Macfarlane (and that's the second time in a week the Times' has printed her photo). 

I spent considerable time talking with you and frankly, you wasted my time.  That won't happen again.

I have been a good source for various Times' reporters over the years.  That ends today.  Please do not call me again for a quote or a source or any type of help on this topic or any other education topic.

The Times has morphed into something that I personally do not recognize or believe is a newspaper and I will not be used to further its agenda.

This is regrettable because I both like and respect you and Brian.  But your bosses have sown the seeds of this discontent and now they will reap the outcomes. 


Melissa Westbrook

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What is the Alliance for Education?

I'm confounded by the Alliance for Education. I don't know what it is anymore.

At one time the Alliance was all about fundraising for Seattle Public Schools. It raised money for the District through it's own events and promotional activities and it acted as fiscal agent for school-related causes. That's it. No politics, no policy, just raised money for the District.

No on I-1240 Op-Ed in Seattle Times

Will wonders never cease!

The Seattle Times printed a guest editorial in opposition to I-1240 and it is a pretty good one.

Op-ed: Reject Initiative 1240 and sending public money to charter schools by Mari Taylor, Vice President of the Washington State School Directors’ Association and a current member of the Lake Stevens School District Board of Directors.

Tuesday Open Thread

A new group has come about called the Community Forums Network.  They have a survey going until October 28th to ask about spending on K-12 education.  They have rather an interesting way to reward you - you get to select a nonprofit organization to receive points towards earning a grant.

I think this could be an interesting start to better public engagement and consensus building so it's worth a look at.

Hey, it's just two weeks until election day.  How are you feeling about this election season - too long, too short? 

I note that both President Obama and Mr. Romney diverged off the foreign policy topic last night and talked education for a bit.  Mr. Romney right away went for the tired "teachers union" point, vaguely mentioned vouchers (without saying the word) and tried to take credit for success in Mass. that happened before he was Governor. 

President Obama was not all that much better but he talked about trying to hire more math/science teachers AND gave Romney a slam on class size.  Apparently, Romney, like Bill Gates, thinks class size doesn't matter.

What's on your mind?

Odd Corners of I-1240

There are some potential consequences of I-1240 which have not been much discussed.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Special Ed Coverage

KUOW also has a report on Special Education in SPS.  It is heartbreaking and, to me, confusing.

Confusing because in the first story, about a little boy named Ryder, it labels him as being on the "autism spectrum."  It states he received services in  preschool and yet, he can't get them in SPS?  If he has a diagnosis, then he should be receiving services.

Then there is another child in the story, Tenzin, who also has autism and yet he can't get something simple like instructions in a written form.  (I was able to get that for my son in high school and that was multiple teachers and no one called it a problem.) 

His mom says,
"...the quality of special education in Seattle schools depends too much on how well a school’s principal understands the federal law that guarantees services to kids with disabilities."  It shouldn't be that way.   

This almost seems to echo DeBell's comment about how expensive it is to serve Special Ed students.  We all know that but the alternative is to ignore or frustrate them and their families?  I'd really like to know what President DeBell thinks should be happening.  Does he think families are looking for these diagnoses for their children?  Does he think it is easy to have a child with special needs? 

Banda says:
"I need someone who’s actually been in the trenches, who’s been in the battles. Somebody’s who’s seasoned. Somebody that has been in that level of leadership in administration that is not only familiar with special ed needs but special ed law, building team, potentially with the idea of restructuring that whole department," Banda says.

I'd like to do more than cross my fingers that SPS finds that person. 

College Scholarships for Student with ADHD

Following up on the thread about the report in the Times on Special Ed, a scholarship just for students with ADHD.  It's called the Shire 2013 ADHA Scholarship Program:

The Shire ADHD Scholarship recognizes and supports individuals with ADHD in the US who are seeking to obtain higher education. The Scholarship includes a $2,000 monetary award and a prepaid year of ADHD coaching from the Edge Foundation to assist in the transition to higher education. Fifty recipients will be selected in 2013, based on community service, volunteer and extracurricular activities, and a personal essay describing how ADHD has impacted their lives. Shire, a global specialty biopharmaceutical company, sponsors the Scholarship as part of its work to support patients who are diagnosed with ADHD, their families, and the professionals who help them.T

Name That...World's Largest Diameter Tunneling Machine

This would be the one to create the tunnel for State Route 99 downtown.  So funny but yes, a contest for kids so tell yours to have at it.  From DOT:

Here’s a riddle for the kids of Washington state: What do you call the record-breaking, dirt-chomping, future-changing machine that will begin tunneling beneath downtown Seattle next summer?

Answer: You tell us.

The Washington State Department of Transportation kicked off a statewide contest today for kindergarten through 12th grade students to name the machine that will dig the State Route 99 tunnel to replace the waterfront section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Crews in Japan are putting the finishing touches on the machine, which – at five stories tall – will be the world’s largest to date. The winning name will be painted on the machine and the contest winner will be invited to attend the dedication event next year in Seattle.

“This project will be a great benefit for future generations, and that’s why we’re turning to the next generation to help name it,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “We want to get students across the state excited about this impressive engineering feat underway in their own backyard.”

Each entry must include a proposed name for the machine and a 200-word-or-less description of why they chose it. Entries are due by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13. Check WSDOT’s website for contest details, rules and restrictions.

There are three ways to enter:

  • Online at www.alaskanwayviaduct.org/
  • In person at Milepost 31, 211 First Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104.
  • By mail at Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, 999 Third Ave., Suite 2424, Seattle, WA 98104.
The winner will be announced in December, when project officials travel to Japan and Seattle Tunnel Partners takes ownership of the completed SR 99 tunneling machine. For more information about the SR 99 Tunnel Project, visit www.alaskanwayviaduct.org/.

Seattle Times and I-1240

Okay. We get it. The Seattle Times endorses initiative 1240. Boy, do they ever. They have run a string of editorials in support of it and they have hosted two live chat events for it.

This latest stunt should not have surprised me, but it did. The Times editorial board invited folks to send a tweet about I-1240 to their twitter account @seatimesopinion with the hashtag #I1240. I sent a few. I'm sure other folks sent some in opposition to the initiative.

The Times wrote:
"We asked readers to share 140-word editorials on Twitter about the Washington state charter school initiative on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot, Initiative 1240. Here are some of the tweets you shared with us."
Yet the only six tweets to get through their filter were five that were in favor of I-1240 and a cryptic one that appears neutral.

Newspapers have editorial boards and they have opinion columns. We're supposed to pretend that their opinion doesn't influence the news that we see from the reporters. Sometimes that's a struggle. The Seattle Times recently went further than making endorsements and actually contributed full page ads worth $80,000 for Referendum 74 and Rob McKenna. These were in-kind contributions to those campaigns by the Seattle Times Company. It created quite a furor - with the reporters as well as the public - and a number of Seattle Times executives tried to assure people of that the Times' reporting would continue to be fair and unbiased. They asked for our trust.

Now, I know that this thing appears on the editorial page, but for the Times to filter these and only allow those that align with their view is analogous to the Times deleting online comments that oppose their view. For an institution that was asking for our trust last week, they don't seem to know how to demostrate their trustworthiness.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, October 22nd
Road Map to College : College Application Event from 2:30-8:00 p.m. at Franklin High School

Wednesday, October 23rd
Public Comment on SPS Levies - BEX IV and Operations from 4-5 p.m. at JSCEE
This is a legally mandated public hearing the district must have for all levies.  Unfortunately, they don't say how long the speaking period is but I suspect it is about 2 minutes.  I recall that President DeBell said they had spots for between 20-25 speakers.  You sign up at the time of the hearing.

Work Session on Creative Approach Schools from 5-6:30 p.m. (right after the public hearing)

Community Conversation to Support Student Success at Nathan Hale High School from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

A Parent Discussion:Alternatives to Truancy, Suspension and Discipline

The District Ombudsman, in collaboration with staff from Disciplinary Appeals, the Truancy Office and School-Family Partnerships/Equity & Race, invites families to participate in discussions to address alternatives to truancy, suspension and disciplinary issues at school.

Thursday, October 25th
Road Map to College : College Application Event from 3:00-8:00 p.m. at West Seattle High School

Banda Conversation/Reception with African-American Community at Mount Zion Baptist Church from 6-8 p.m.

Saturday, October 27th
Community Meeting with Director Patu from 10 am -noon at Caffe Vita, 5028 Wilson Avenue S.

Ballots are out - please vote by Tuesday, November 6th!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Times' Investigation of Special Ed in SPS

A lengthy and troubling report by Brian Rosenthal of the Times on Special Ed and SPS.

The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland; Useful for Today's Politics

The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900.  Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865.  But their usefulness in politics? Timeless.

So many phrases describe what we see every day.  Down the Rabbit Hole.  Advice from the Caterpillar.  Don't mind that man behind the curtain.  Not in Kansas anymore.  

The Mock Turtle on education:  Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

We are seeing all this play out via charter schools and the somewhat ugly discussion about them in our state.  Stand for Children, the Times and others have chosen to target certain legislators - Gerry Pollet, Marcie Maxwell, and especially Rosemary McAullife.  

It is hard to believe that anyone who wanted to be fair would not consider an elected official's ENTIRE history and not just their stand on one sub-topic of a topic.  But this is where we are.

Let's start this conversation about BEX (again). 

I like the BEX staff that I know.  They are bright and hard-working.  A few of the very problematic people are gone and that is truly a good thing.  That said, I have never been confident in the choices that the BEX staff has made over the years.

Here are my problems with how BEX staff works. 

One, there never seems, despite their use of the word "scenarios", any real evidence that you see them saying "if A, then, B but what about this ripple to C".

 No school is an island and there are ramifications to all these choices and it's NOT just about capacity. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Open Thread

Reminders for Saturday:

Board Community Meetings:
DeBell from 9-11am at Cafe Appassinato

Family Symposium/Road Map to College Event at Chief Sealth High School from 10 am- 3 p.m.

Good News in SPS:
Hawthorne Community raised more than $11K to "reimagine" their library.

Roosevelt High School's Hands for a Bridge program received the World Educator award from the World Affairs Council.  The program is being recognized for "its dedication to increasing global awareness and fostering dialogue about issues surrounding social justice."

SPS's LGBT Families Dinner is Thursday, November 9th from 6-8 p.m. at NOVA/World School at Meany.  Dinner is provided.  Questions and RSVP to Lisa Love at 252-0982 or llove@seattleschools.org with how many people in your group or for more information. 

What's on your mind?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sylvester Cann and I-1240

There was some interest in hearing more about this candidate (from the 46th) and his views on charter schools.  This is particularly important because he is one of Stand for Children's candidates and naturally, they generally only fund people who share their views.  (They are going after Senator Rosemary McAuliffe of the 1st Legislative district in an aggressive and harsh way.)

The Maple Leaf Community Council had their candidate/issues forum last night.

First up were Sylvester Cann and Gerry Pollet.  Gerry was quite clear from his opening remarks that he is against charters and particularly why he is against 1240.  Cann only spoke generally about education in his remarks but got asked, right out the gate, what is your stand on charters?  He said:

- it wasn't an easy issue and "his favorite question this campaign)
- "my official position is that I do not support charter schools" and that he was voting NO on 1240 (but didn't say exactly why)
- he did say there are "good ideas from charters" but we can accomplish many of the same things in Washington state and that many things happening in Washington state already look like charters .

What was then interesting is that Gerry Pollet kind of called him out on it, saying Cann had fudged this position many times. 

When Cann was asked again about charters (people were quite interested in this topic), he said:

 "Charters are an idea, and don't represent values."

And then something to the effect of "if we want to create the best model of charter schools, we can come together and do that."

Clearly, he wanted to hedge but got put on the spot.  But, from my No point of view, he is now on the record.

It was videotaped and here's the link.  Pollet and Cann are the first speakers.  The question of charters comes up about minute 16 through about minute 22.

I'm not sure what Stand thought they were getting (and hey, the Yes side speaker?  Shannon Campion, their Executive Director) but Mr. Cann would be foolish to say that out loud, get elected and then try to backtrack.  I think Mr. Pollet was right to wonder out loud about this issue.

Support for NO on 1240 Rising

Stats from the latest KCTS-9 Washington Poll (via The Stranger Slog):

Initiative 1240 – Charter Schools
Yes 47.5%
No 39.2%
Undecided 13.3%

That is a slight drop for Yes, a slight rise for No and a LOT of undecideds (which is pretty much what I see out there on the campaign trail).  There's a lot of pondering to be done between now and Election Day but I think Elway polling may be right - initiative support tends to drop as you get closer to it.

Other initiatives:

Referendum 74 – Marriage Equality
Yes 56.3%
No 35.6%
Undecided 6.1%

Initiative 502 – Legalizing and Regulating Marijuana
Yes 50.9%
No 40.8%
Undecided 8.3%

Initiative 1185 – 2/3 Majority to Raise Taxes
Yes 53.6%
No 31.2%
Undecided 15.2%

On-Line Debate on 1240 Today at Noon

The Seattle Times is having a live chat at noon today, Thursday, Oct. 17th, with Professor Wayne Au, from UW Bothell, opposing I-1240 and Shannon Campion, from some organization supporting 1240.

About Professor Au:

He is an assistant professor in the education program at the University of Washington, Bothell. He is an editor for the progressive education magazine, Rethinking Schools. He is the author of numerous books, chapters, and articles, and his research focuses on issues of equality and justice in education.

Our moderators are Times reporter Linda Shaw and myself. Feel free to send questions in advance to lshaw@seattletimes.com or jbalter@seattletimes.com.

Get those questions in!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seattle School Board - NO on 1240

I couldn't stay but it was on Twitter; the Board said No to 1240.

It was a unanimous vote.  Details to come (but if you have input, let us know).  They are the school board for the largest district in the state.  Combine that with Superintendent Banda's no, it's a pretty effective one-two punch.

Others saying No to 1240:
Sally Clark
Both Leg candidates from the 46th: Gerry Pollett  and Sylvester Cann

From STEM to Arbor Heights

We have been asked to relay this message:
Dear Arbor Heights Community,
I wanted to thank you for giving the STEM community the opportunity to speak at the Oct 17th School Board Meeting. The fact that you so gracefully ceded your spot to another parent so we could speak to the board speaks volumes about the amazing people you are. We were so disappointed to only have spots on the wait list, so this was truly a gift you gave our community.
We are so hopeful that your communities zealous advocacy on behalf of your children and families will pay off.
With hope, respect, and big props,
Robin Graham
Co-President K-5 STEM

Pinehurst Parents' Response to BEX IV Levy

From the Save Pinehurst group:

We hastily formed a new Pinehurst K-8 BEX Levy Committee in response to the following in a letter sent  to the entire School District on October 9, 2012 from Superintendent José Banda.

The Seattle School District (BEX IV Levy Team and School Board) has yet to talk with the Pinehurst K-8 community on next steps. We are aware that they have meet with Jane Addams K-8 and other schools over the last few months, including this week. We request the same courtesy and consideration to meet with them ASAP and collaborate on a solution for preserving the 40+ year history of the Pinehurst K-8 alternative school.

We are aware that time is of the essence since the Board will be voting on the BEX IV Levy soon.

"Jane Addams K-8: Move to Pinehurst K-8 and open Jane Addams building as a middle school by 2015. We will work with the Pinehurst community on next steps for the school."

Solutions proposed by our school community:

•Keep Pinehurst K-8 in our current building and foster enrollment growth without frequent threats of closure.

•Move other programs into the Pinehurst K-8 building to fill its 240 capacity. We currently have 147 K-8 and 34 developmental preschoolers for a total of 181 kids.

•Move into a smaller building in a different location to keep our school intact.

•Retain Pinehurst K-8 as an alternative program in a new Jane Addams K-8 building on our location.

•Convert into a neighborhood school to draw from the large number of kids in the Pinehurst community and relieve overcapacity at local assignment schools.

Why you should support Pinehurst K-8:
  • Our Kindergarten enrollment has doubled in the last year despite frequent threats of closure.
  • If we are dissolved we would burden our already overcrowded assignment schools with an additional 181 students.
  • We have raised test scores and are recent winners of the Schools of Distinctions Award and the Washington Achievement Award.
  • We meet the needs of parents seeking an alternative teaching model who might otherwise support charter schools.
  • We emphasize physical activity and our kids ROCK at Rock Climbing and Ultimate Frisbee.
  • We are the only neighborhood school that is walking distance from the Pinehurst community. I have lived in Pinehurst for 9 years and most kids are bused to assignment schools.
  • This is the fourth attempt to close us in seven years and Board Members acknowledged that frequent threats to close Pinehurst K-8 has adversely affected enrollment.
Thank you for your support of Pinehurst K-8 to keep our 40+ year alternative school thriving!

The Stranger Says NO to 1240

In their usual no-nonsense manner, The Stranger laid out its opposition to 1240, pretty much calling it smoke and mirrors.

If there were a single credible, independent, peer-reviewed study to suggest that charter schools do a better job of educating children than traditional public schools, we might drop our opposition to this measure. But there isn't. A widely cited Stanford University study finds that 17 percent of charters do substantially better, while 37 percent do substantially worse. Maybe it's our public-school education, but we don't like those odds.

I-1240 would draw scarce funding from existing public schools, while handing control over these dollars from elected school boards to private boards. A petition signed in secret by a majority of a school's parents could initiate the conversion of your neighborhood school to a charter school, but there's no like provision to convert a charter school back to a public school. Charters are nominally nonprofit, but there's nothing to stop them from contracting operations to for-profit companies. There's a lot of money to be made off of I-1240, hence the $8.3 million backing it got from the likes of Alice Walton, the Bezos family, Paul Allen, and Bill Gates. (The idea that Bill Gates, who never set foot in a public school as either a student or a parent, should tell us how to run them is doubly insulting.)

Proponents argue this is only a test run, allowing just 40 charters statewide over the next five years. But we know a foot in the door when we see one. Once voters approve even this limited measure, lawmakers will lose their aversion toward expanding its scope. But mostly, we object to the timing. In the wake of the state supreme court's landmark McCleary v. State decision requiring billions more for basic education, charter school advocates have squandered the opportunity to actually fund our public schools, pushing a divisive, ineffective, free market "reform" instead.

Vote no.

I will note a couple of things.

I believe Mr. Gates did attend Laurelhurst Elementary for a couple of years.  But it is true that none of his children have ever attended public school.

They are quite right about the "foot in the door" or, as a gentleman at the One Stop Ballot Shop event last night put it "a gateway."  

Wednesday Open Thread

So, some high drama tonight at the Board meeting. 

From the speakers list (with a long wait list), we see most of it is over the resolution for a No on 1240 from the Board.  Judging from the names I recognize that would seem to be in agreement with this resolution, the Board will get lots of encouragement (although I do see a few that will disagree and I'll be interested to hear their argument).

Unfortunately, there are 4 TFA people on the list apparently to endorse the latest hiring of one TFAer (which no one else is protesting).  It sure would be nice if they gave up those spots to parents with BEX concerns.  If I hear enough good words in support of the No on1240 resolution, I will give up my spot.

I am actually hoping the Board, while discussing the resolution, does make some statement about groups that try to stifle their right to speak out on election issues that directly affect our district and the Board's work overseeing our district.  Neither Stand for Children or any group has the right to tell the Board they cannot speak out. 

That was a good debate last night; I wonder how women can get into Romney's "binders full of women."  

One new event to make note of that you might want to attend is tomorrow night (Thursday, October 18th) at Queen Anne Elementary.  They will have a double-header event:

6:30-7:15 pm - discussion of the Creative Approach process (and QAE's proposal)
7:30-8:30 p.m. - debate on I-1240 to create Charter Schools

It sounds like a good chance to hear more on both subjects.  They do want you to RSVP.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Keep Your Eye on the Bouncing BEX Ball

 Two more updates.

This from the Board agenda as a change to the BEX list - an addition of RBHS for seismic issues and I note the new amount is at $694.9M.

Also, below are notes from a parent who attended a meeting at Jane Addams last night.  This is THEIR reading of what they heard. Anyone else attend who heard the same or different?

Here are a few details about the BEXIV bombshell delivered last night at a meeting at Jane Addams.

District Staff present included Pegi McEvoy, Lucy Morello, Kim Whitworth. Sharon Peaslee was also there, as were at least two FACMAC members.

The Jane Addams K-8 community rejected the Oct 10th proposal, because the enlarged Pinehurst building proposed to house their program was only adequate for 2 classrooms per grade at elementary and 3 cohorts per grade at middle school. The Jane Addams K-8 BEX Task Force group met with District Staff on Friday, and explained to them that the program must have 3 classrooms/cohorts per grade, K-8, in order to fit their instructional model.

The Jane Addams K-8 program will get a brand new building on the Pinehurst site (total building replacement). The school/program will be re-named. The new building will be large enough to house a 3-up configuration, grades K-8.

Cost of new building: $40M
Opening date: Fall 2017
Capacity: 680
Teaching stations/classrooms: 35
(includes choir, music, and art rooms and 2 science labs, SpEd, ELL, etc...)

Environmental habitat building
Green roof
Landscape to support interation with environment
Outdoor environment to complement classroom learning
Building that supports emphasis on music, the arts and PE

In order to meet a capacity of 680,a 3rd story is required for part of the structure. SPS will request a code variance.

Program: Option E-STEM (environmental science/STEM label), ELL, Self-contained SpEd, Spectrum, on-site childcare.

No room for a developmental preschool.

Jane Addams Middle School would not open until 2017.

There is no intention of moving the Jane Addams K-8 program from the Jane Addams building until the new building is ready for them in 2017.

To cope with middle school enrollment, Pegi McEvoy said that they were looking into rolling up the new Jane Addams Middle School in the John Marshall building prior to the availabilty of the Jane Addams building in 2017. There was no official start date mentioned for this roll-up process, or what schools would make up the feeder pattern for Jane Addams Middle School.

Sharon Peaslee and Kay Smith-Blum were credited for their advocacy of the Jane Addams K-8 program, and for pushing for the $15M increase in BEXIV in order to accomodate adequate programming for the Jane Addams K-8.

Stand for Children Tells Board to Sit Down and Shut Up

Amazing.  Not only is Stand for Children NOT a "education group"; now they are against basic democracy.

Here's what they said yesterday:

"Ask Seattle Public Schools to let the people lead on charter schools.  Instead of waiting to see what the will of the voters is, the Seattle School board wants to preempt our right to decide. That's not what we want from our elected officials"

(And I note they didn't put this on their blog but in a super secret message to their supporters.) 

But let's look at that request.

We elect people to make decisions on whatever entity they represent.  That's their job.  And, we ask public officials - all the time - about their stands on issues.  Jay Inslee, Rob McKenna, everyone.

And yet, Stand believes that somehow the Board is to stand mutely by over an issue that will directly affect every single child in SPS (and the taxpayers of Seattle).  How much reasoning is there in that thought?  I submit there is none.

No one is saying the voters can't decide.  No one.

But yes, elected officials, as a body, and as private citizens, do get to take a stand and to suggest otherwise is wrong.

Hilariously, they ask that the Board "set aside their resolution until "AFTER the election.  And the point of taking the vote after the election would be?

Things must be getting desperate over there if they are against basic democracy.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Whoever the person is that has the phone number that I mistakenly put down for the Board office number, I apologize.

I have typed the real number for years, never gotten it wrong but I sure did here.  I apologize for the inconvenience it caused you and promise to always double-check phone numbers in the future.

Check Out Google Today

An interactive (and very cute) tribute to Little Nemo in Slumberland that your younger kids will enjoy.

How the District Cheats Four Schools

There are four schools which are cheated by the District every year. They are South Lake, The Center School, The NOVA Project, and The World School. These are high schools which are not funded in accordance with the Weighted Staffing Standard used to fund every other high school. Instead of getting the funding that they are supposed to get, these schools get much, much less.

High schools with enrollment under 800 are supposed to be funded with these staff positions:

High School Staffing for schools with less than 800 students (AAFTE)
Principal 1.0
Asst. Principal 1.0
Admin. Secretary (260) 1.0
Data Registrar (220) 1.0
Attendance Spec. (201) 1.0
Fiscal Specialist (220) 1.0
Activity Coordinator 1.0
Nurse 0.8
Counselor* (per 400 students) 1.0
Librarian 1.0
Academic Intervention Specs 1.0

These schools, however, are not allotted these staff positions. These schools are singled out to be intentionally underfunded.

You might think it is because they are small schools, but Rainier Beach High School has an October 1 enrollment of 407, which isn't qualitatively different from the October 1 enrollment for The NOVA Project, which  is 340. The Center School has 285, South Lake has 127, and the World School has 187.

These schools don't have operational needs that are much different from other high schools. Visit them and you will see a principal in the office and teachers in classrooms with students. Through the day the students move from class to class. They look and work just like regular high schools. They have the same funding needs and they should be funded equitably.

What They Say vs What They Do

Tell me that I'm not the only one troubled by the wide gap between what the District leadership says - mostly the Board, but senior staff as well - and what they do.

They say that they are committed to transparency, but they never offer any. We went through this long process for the BEX IV plan with all kinds of community meetings and you would think that every idea was aired and discussed, but then, at the 11th hour, they interject this weird Jane Addams to Pinehurst idea. It comes out of nowhere and there's no time left to discuss it. And what, exactly, is the process for program placement decisions? What is the rationale behind under-funding the "non-traditional" schools?

They say that they are committed to community engagement, but look at the motions that come before the Board. The vast majority of them have had no community engagement at all. The Board's primary community engagement, public testimony, has been squeezed and reduced and diminished.

They say that they support advanced learning, but they have made a mockery of ALOs, they have destroyed Spectrum, and they are actively ripping APP apart. When have they ever supported advanced learning in any way? What would they have done to APP if they did not support it?

They say that they care about Special Education, but they have abandoned it completely. There is no effort to make the fantasy inclusive classrooms real.

They say that they want equitable access to programs, but they put the programs in attendance area schools and deny access to students living outside the neighborhood. What more could they have done to reduce the equity of access? Oh! Right! They could put language immersion schools adjacent to each other.

They say that they want to make decisions based on data, but they never collect or review any data prior to making any decisions. They didn't regard the data before entering into a contract with NTN or before closing schools.

They say that they want to create a culture of compliance but they never enforce any of the rules or complain when people break them. They violate state law when hiring Teach for America corps members, they engage in unfair labor practices, they ignore their own procedures on investigations, they usually don't even bother to check what the rules are.

They say that they want to build the public's trust in the District, but they never keep any of their commitments and prove themselves utterly un-trustworthy. Over and over again. What do they think builds trust?

I sometimes feel like I'm living in some kind of inverse reality - or maybe they are. When I confront them with these things I just get blank looks. It's as if they are surprised by it. It's as if they don't realize that they do the exact opposite of everything they say. How can it be unknown to them when it is so obvious to us?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hot Week for Seattle Schools

Monday, October 15th
Superintendent Banda will be busy as he bounces from the Seattle Special Education PTA meeting and the Seattle Council PTA meeting.  Both are from 7-9 p.m.

The Seattle Council meeting is in the auditorium but it is unclear where the Special Ed PTA is meeting.  I'll find out and post it.

The Seattle Council PTA meeting includes Q&A on I -1240.  It also includes a presentation of the BEX IV levy.

Tuesday, October 16th
Operation Committee Meeting from 4-6 p.m.  Agenda.  To note, Pegi McEvoy will give an update on the BEX IV levy to the group.  Other items include the Student Assignment plan for 2013-2014.

Wednesday, October 17th
School Board meeting.  Agenda.

A rather important one as this will introduce the BEX IV levy list AND the Board will vote on a resolution of a NO against I-1240.  I suspect quite a run for the speakers list especially from those supporting charters and the downtown folks.

To get on the speakers list, e-mail at boardagenda@seattleschools.org or call 252-0040 at 8 am on Monday, the 15th.  

On the agenda, hiring yet another TFA teacher (pretty late to be hiring so it's a puzzlement).  

Here's the submitted BEX IV list at $694.9M.  I will plaintively note that roof work really belongs in BTA as should labs.  I do not understand how BTA and BEX work seems to be all mixed together and now includes academics and other items.  BTA should be for major work and renovations and BTA for major maintenance and technology and BOTH should be for capital work only. 

The Operations levy is at $551.9M.   I note that it is stated that this levy is about 27% of our district's budget. 

The total for both?  $1.2B.  Still breathtaking.

Also on the agenda, redefining high school credit:

This action would revise Board Policy 2420 that outlines high school grading and the awarding
of high school credits.  It adds a requirement that at least a “D” or a “passing” grade (pursuant to
the Counseling Manual’s rules about non-letter grades) is earned before credit may be awarded.
In addition, a provision is added to allow schools to request an exemption from the 150 hours of
planned instructional activities per credit requirement through the process outlined in the
Superintendent’s procedure.

And this - South Transit North Link Construction Easement - Tieback at Roosevelt High School

This agreement is a six-year temporary underground construction easement for Sound Transit
North Link Light Rail project.  This will encumber 7,721 square feet on the south west end of the
Roosevelt High School Athletic Field at approximately 60 ‘to 90’ beneath the ground surface.  An
appraisal was completed and the value of the easement is $25,000.  Per Board Policy 6220, any
real estate contracts with a term longer that five years requires Board approval.  

Okay, but how much more will that easement affect the noise/vibration level at Roosevelt?  I live in the neighborhood and we already dread the years of tunneling and those kids at Roosevelt?  Good luck because it will be day and night.  Hmm.

Thursday, October 18th
Roadmap to College: College Application Completion Event from 3-7 p.m. at Nathan Hale High School

Resources will be provided to support students with their college applications, specifically their college essay. This includes access to computers, printers, and trained writing tutors.

Each student will be given a toolkit with step-by-step guides for applying to local colleges, fee waiver information and writing tips.

For more information and to register, visit www.roadmaptocollege.org.

Friday, October 19th
BEX Oversight Committee Meeting from 8:30 a.m-10:30 am - I wonder what has been said at these meetings about the BEX IV list? 

Saturday, October 20th
 Community Meeting with Director DeBell from 9-11am, Cafe Appassionato, 4001 21st Ave W. 

Roadmap to College: College Application Completion Event from 11 am- 1:30 p.m. at Chief Sealth High School

Family Symposium from 10 am to 3 p.m. at Chief Sealth High School.

The goal of the symposium is to support families as fundamental partners in their student’s academic success. SPS will offer workshops and other resources for families and community partners to help support student academic achievement at home and in the community.

The symposium, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes a resource fair with community booths and activities for children ages 4 and up. Families will learn how to support their children in the areas of early learning, math, reading and writing, college and career readiness, special education, essay writing for college entrance, graduation requirements and four-year planning, and financial planning. A light continental breakfast and lunch will also be provided. 

In addition, SPS enrollment specialists will be available to help parents complete early enrollment paperwork for the 2013-14 school year, and interpreters will be provided.