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Thursday, October 25, 2012

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.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The meeting was downtown at 4pm on a Wed. For both stay at home and working parents, 4-6pm is a crazy time with pick-up, drop-off, tired kids, H-W, dinner, etc.

Might as well have been on the moon.

-aarrgh

Eric B said...

So here's a defense about last-minute changes, following a line of logic:

1. The BEX levy is in February, and it needs to be filed in early November.
2. The Board has far fewer work sessions in the summer. To some extent, staff are in transition between district jobs or more likely to be on vacation, although I don't think the latter was as important this time.
3. We had a new Superintendent starting in July, so many major decisions had to wait until he was here and could dive into the situation.
4. Final enrollment numbers don't come out until October 1.
5. You had a community group (FACMAC) that threw a wrench into the works in early Fall by recommending using higher enrollment projections for NE and WS, rather than using medium projections. I think this was the right decision, but it caused some uncertainty and last-minute changes. To their credit, District staff believed FACMAC and incorporated our recommendation.

All of that puts a lot of pressure on making a lot of changes to the last minute.

Now that I've made the defense, there are probably ways to have mitigated any of them (eg for #4, commit to using July 1 enrollment numbers with some adjustment rather than waiting for October 1). You could make some argument about most of these items, but taken together they push towards late decisions.

Charlie Mas said...

Last September, over a year ago, the Board asked the superintendent for a program placement procedure. The Superintendent committed to having it done by September 2012, a date chosen specifically so the procedure would be available for application in the BEX IV planning. It gave the staff a full year to do the work. The Board named it as one of their "priorities" for the year.

The staff did not deliver. Not in September 2012 and not since.

This was not a last-minute thing. They had a whole year to do a job that could be reasonably completed in a single afternoon.

When their program placement procedure comes out - and it eventually will - ask yourself if it reflects over a year of work.

mirmac1 said...

I would really like to see the latest, greatest FACMAC recommendations. Are the 2011 meeting minutes on the district's Capacity Planning & Management webpage the final say? Or just all staff was willing to allow the community to influence? Eric B. or Kellie, can you email minutes to spsleaks@gmail.com?

Josh Hayes said...

Apparently, several folks from Pinehurst, including at least one student, spoke at the meeting on Wednesday. I was not able to attend, but does anyone know if there was video taken, and if so, is it available online?

ws said...

West Seattle Blog mentioned they did, but they only have two clips posted so far, not the meeting in its entirity

http://westseattleblog.com/2012/10/happening-now-2nd-to-last-public-comment-round-before-school-boards-levy-vote

Unknown said...

@ Josh H
Pinehurst had a big contingency. A parent, grandparent and several students spoke. I didn't see the Seattle Channel crew at the meeting.

-BEX Watcher

Anonymous said...

Eric B,

Does FACMAC reach out to schools during its planning process? I haven't heard of it coming to our school; we were the ones who had to reach out to it.

Also, if it's a community advisory board, why aren't its meetings publicly listed for people to observe, and why aren't minutes available on the SPS website?

Joe