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Monday, October 01, 2012

Seattle Schools Week of Oct. 1-6

Monday
Another of Superintendent Banda's Community meetings, this time at Bryant Elementary 3311 NE 60th Street from 6-7:30 p.m.

Director Peaslee Community meeting from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Lake City Library, 12501 128th Ave NE

Tuesday
Superintendent Banda Community meeting, this time at Concord International,  723 South Concord Street from 6-7:30 p.m.

Wednesday
School Board meeting at 4:15 p.m.  Could I put in a plug here?  Please write to the Board and tell them that this time is not conducive to real public engagement - schoolboard@seattleschools.org.  Agenda.

One key item here is the Creative Approach Amendment that is supposed to put in School Board oversight to this process.   I need to read it line for line but my quick read is...not so much.   I feel the Board should have some kind of final input on any change.  The issue to me is that this Amendment only says the Board has to approve a waiver request and not the overall change to a school that a Creative Approach application would provide.

I get very nervous when I see terms that are not defined and remain squishy.  If it is not spelled out, it doesn't really count.

I note a Board Work Session on Creative Approach schools on October 24th from 5-6:30 p.m.
 tru
There is also a nearly $2M contract with Pearson for a new Student Information system  (this is funded through BTA III which I don't recall).  The old one, through a different company, was serviced by Pearson but guess what?  Pearson isn't servicing it anymore and hence a new one.  The district calls this "compelling financial advantages."  Now there may be other advantages but since the staff doesn't feel compelled to explain what these are to taxpayers, I'll have to assume the advantage is that we know Pearson.

I note that the lone TFAer will be approved (I'm sure he will).  This item does reveal that the district got the Seattle Foundation to pony up for this person's TFA fee of $4K per year. Interesting with all these "best and brightest" TFAers around that our site-based hiring teams don't seem to want to hire them.  I guess experience counts for something in today's classroom.


Thursday
Community Conversations to Support Student Success, 5:30-7:00 p.m. at Rainier Beach High School, 8815 Seward Park Ave S.  This is a parent discussion around alternatives to truancy, suspension and discipline.   This is one of five meetings to be held on this subject over the next month.

20 comments:

D. Moralized said...

Not relevant to this particular story, but this just came out on Friday:

Dear Principals,

The Seattle Times is working on a story about Special Education, which we believe will be published in the next week or two. We anticipate this in-depth story will be a critical look at the District, and might also generate additional media stories. KUOW is also working on a similar story, spurred by family complaints.

We know you and our special education department have been working hard to serve our students, and we want you to be aware of the upcoming media attention.

Moving forward, the District is conducting a national search to find a permanent Executive Director of Special Education. We know the vacancy in leadership has been difficult, but we thank BiHoa Caldwell, John Thorp and Phil Brockman for ongoing leadership.

In addition, Superintendent Banda is meeting with about 15 special education advocates next month to address their concerns, talk about next steps and how we can best work together for the good of our students.

If you receive any calls from the media, please let me or Teresa Wippel know and we are happy to work with you. And please feel free to let your teachers and staff know about the upcoming media attention.

Sincerely,

Lesley

Lesley Rogers
Chief Communications Officer
Seattle Public Schools
Cell: 206.255.2811
Desk: 206.252.0198 | Fax: 206.252.0201
Email: larogers1@seattleschools.org
Twitter: @seapubschools

D. Moralized said...

Frankly, I'm not sure how much more of this we Seattle SpEd educators can take.

Yes, there are big problems at the district level with SpEd., but it's so disheartening to work so hard with kids who need help and then be tarred with the same brush as administration. I hope these reporters are mindful of this.

SpEd professionals are working their tails off. Right now we're in a leaking boat that's sinking fast and hasn't had a captain in a decade. We're just trying to bail out this tub while our mid-level crew masters whip us to work harder.

Dorothy Neville said...

De Moralized,

Brian Rosenthal has been working on this story for at least six months. Perhaps more like nine. If you are concerned that he hasn't gotten the perspective of teachers in the trenches, feel free to contact him through the Seattle Times.

D. Moralized said...

Thanks Dorothy.

I'm just not sure if anybody who works for the SSD can get a fair shake in the times.

SeattleSped said...

It is unfortunate that Banda has had to be dragged into this (passively) kicking and screaming. Parents are fighting for someone in charge of Sped who knows WTH they're talking about. NOT Marni Campbell, NOT Phil Brockman, NOT Bihoa Caldwell ad nauseam!

D. Moralized said...

Seattle sped... Can't tell, but it looks like whoever they hire to be sped director (or rather IF they hire somebody) will report directly to Marni.

IMHO... They need to start over with somebody from outside who will answer only to Banda and the board directly.

Anonymous said...

Yeah but.... isn't Marni an "interim" executive director in charge of sped and a couple other also-rans? Firstly what exactly is the "director of teaching and learning", and why does sped have to go there? Or is it now "curriculum and instruction"? That is equally vague. And secondly, she is the only the interim, right? Presumably somebody else will be hired for that job permanently.

Phil Brockman seems good.

-parent

Anonymous said...

D. Moralized, I don't think anybody is out to "tar" the teachers with the same brush as the administrators. Even the central administrators don't necessarily deserve tarring. What exactly are they supposed to do - when principals never have to answer for a thing when it comes to students with disabilities? That organizational reality isn't really their fault either.

I doubt this guy Rosenthal is going to come up with anything horrible or shocking. And there's no need to be further demoralized.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Noted, the letter to principals frames everything as stemming from family complaining. When will downtown stop this dishonest practice? Professionals everywhere think SPS is way behind the times on sped and plenty of teachers in the trenches ask for and never receive access to technical help and resources. Then you have principals who are accountable to nobody.


Fed up

D. Moralized (but not broken) said...

You're right parent. There are some administrators who are trying to help... And some who aren't. I hope you're right about the times, but nobody sells papers by reporting that everything's great.

Unknown said...

I don't think that Brian Rosenthal is going to come up with anything substantially different than what has been covered in comments on this blog--hopefully with real names, better documentation and more polite language. And I do believe he did talk to teachers.

But, why in the hell does it take someone who was thirteen-years-old the last time SPS Special Ed had an Executive Director to get the attention of the community? What does that say about the priorities that the community has? If, as a community, we cannot do a decent job educating those who are most in need of education, what kind of a community are we?

My youngest son, who is adopted, was not born under the same star as my other children. Rhetorically speaking, he was born under a black hole. SPS has done nothing to brighten his way and, in fact, has contributed to the blackness.

I feel that the desultory neglect showed to these kids and families verges on the criminal.

It's time for a wake-up call, Seattle. Hopefully this article will provide one.

Anonymous said...

If you work with students with IEPs in Seattle Public Schools, whether you're a gen ed or special education teacher, I'd like to talk with you for my story.

I've spoken with numerous teachers on background about their frustrations. If you're willing to go on record, I want to hear from you.

Here's a related story I wrote about special education in SPS:

http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=19801

Thanks,

Ann Dornfeld
KUOW Education Reporter
(206) 221-7082
adornfeld@kuow.org

Anonymous said...

My guess, based on what I know, is that this Times article will basically confirm that, yes indeed, parents are whiners. SPS special ed is just like everywhere else, except parents complain more... and only a tiny little bit more. It won't point to a "mandate" to "fix" anything, because nothing fixable is actually broken. That's my guess. (also, not my opinion) It might include a "golly gee whiz, they should hire a leader one of these years, or decades".

-sped parent

Unknown said...

sped parent,

Thanks for nailing the prevailing opinion down. It's true. We're whiners. We're royal pains in the posterior. We're social lepers. Just like our kids. In fact, our kids are just like us. It's no wonder the kids turned out the way they did. No social skills. That's me. And that's my kid, too.

Why don't you add whining SpEd staffers and, while you're at it, heck, throw in all the whining SpEd kids. And let's not forgot the whining administration with their whining letter about the whining parents.

I guess since we are all whiners, nothing we say is valid. Isn't that the point of your ad hominem attack? Turn us into the problem; it's the whiners that are the problem. Turning us into whiners oversimplifies a very complex problem; the problem of the whining parents, instead of all the various complex issues that have fed into the current state of poor special education services.

I hope you will see you are wrong. There is a lot of brokenness and there are a lot of things that could get fixed. And I hope that is what happens soon. I hope the administration actively engages with the parents. I hope they hire a real leader very soon for the position of Executive Director of Special Education. I hope they get expert help in righting the lurching boat. I hope they invest time, personnel, and money into fixing things. I hope they look to the current laws and regulations and see where they could do a better job of compliance. I hope that they provide SpEd staffers and the Gen Ed teachers the resources they need to do a good job with ICS. I hope they turn from a "putting out fires" mode to a more proactive mode.

And at the top of my Christmas list--I really hope everyone doesn't have the same burned-out opinion of the issue that you do, because then nothing will change. And the whining will only grow louder.

Anonymous said...

Most people who read the Seattle Times have the idea that the issues in public education relate to race, language, and class. So what that a few who read this blog think the Times article on Special Education will say 'nothing new.' The Times article should expose a lot of readers to something new. Will it spur Mr. Banda and his cabinet to some basic accountability for how the District treats families of students with special needs, students with special needs, and their teachers???? That is not hard to predict. Of course not!! Seattle Schools is in its own special special education world.

District watcher

Anonymous said...

Mary,

Can you explain what you meant by "But, why in the hell does it take someone who was thirteen-years-old the last time SPS Special Ed had an Executive Director to get the attention of the community?" Wether you like her or not, SPS had a Special Ed Executive Director two years ago, Marni Campbell. It had an Interim Executive Director all of last year, whose wether you liked her or not had a background exclusively in Sp Ed. Before that, it was managers reporting to a Director who oversaw Sp Ed, ELL, and Advanced Learning managers. SPS retired the "Executive Director" title for about 15 years, until MGJ resurrected it for first HR, then Sp Ed, then just about anyone. Is it that you believe that it had been years since the Sp Ed Leader had the confidence of the community? If yes, I would be really interested in knowing who that person was. In my memory, SPS had a habit of promoting people beyond their skill set in this area and then they would crash spectacularly (ie Art Kono).

-IMHO

Unknown said...

IMHO, You are correct. My rant was inexact. My point is that there has neither been anyone who had the authority (ie., without interim prefacing the title of their position)or the qualifications (ie., former principal with no SpEd experience like Marni Campbell) to deliver on what the department needs for a Very Long Time. I don't know what the history of the position was 15 years ago. I just know that there is a history of serious neglect. On the frontline of services, that boils down to bad service. It is outrageous that bad or no leadership has continued for so long.

My other point of outrage, in case it was lost, is that there should be some kind of mechanism within the system which would provide feedback for corrections without having to resort to outside "authorities" (in this case, a fairly young but dogged journalist without any specialized knowledge of special ed). There are people in SPS with PhD and EdD subfixed to their last names. Why aren't they able to see the problem for what it is?

Anonymous said...

I believe Banda's "focus group" of 15 special education advocates (and sundry others) is pure CYA. He has had multiple opportunities to take proactive steps to staunch the bleeding. Is it because SPS has an oversupply of bandaids? Perhaps more so than any other program, special education families are the ones bringing the solutions. But we don't have Ed.D after our names so WTH do we know? Just IDEA, our students' rights, and sheer grit and determination.

sceptacle (not to be confused with skeptical)

Anonymous said...

I am probably late in my post but want to share my perspective...The crux of Seattle's special education problem started long ago when they fell behind in making "requred changes" that came with the federal law. Instead of moving into compliance with the laws, Seattle chose to challenge every legal case that came forward, so they did not have to make systemic changes needed... all in the name of saving dollars, not recognizing its short-sitedness in lost social capital and huge special education legal expenses hidden from public view!

Now fast forward several years... parents and well-intentioned teachers are left fighting the imbedded culture of gate-keeping and layers (I mean layers) of incomptence that has come with Seattle's special education package. (Marni and Becky show only made it worse for teachers and students alike.) Teachers are scared to advocate for what they know their special ed. students need. Principals have differing building agendas that short change special education and tell teachers "no" when it comes to special ed.... and not enough parents have moved beyond whining into action. (And frankly, many parents cannot expend the time and resources to do so.)

We have a school board who knows that special education is on fire and has conveniently removed themselves from governance duties to include compliance with laws that they know the district is breaking. (They become a public accessory to the illegal acts, but yet they do not know this.)

A school board who feels that special education spending is out of control... Well actually it is because not one person in the district, including the principal, has any accountability for ensuring the money (from general ed and special ed funds) actually goes towards the educating children in special education.

You know it is bad when you hear that Marni Campbell cut expenses for a special education program, leaving children no place but to be educated in the food courts at our local malls... yes our most vulnerable students received instruction in the middle of the mall... and Seattle's school board sat by and did nothing!

There are no accounting measures to follow all that money... guess what, it isn't getting to the children in need. And Seattle is asking taxpayers for how much money in the upcoming levy??? How could this be when Seattle Schools has no idea where the money is spent, particulalry for special ed.

So the next time school board member Michael DeBell whines that the special education costs are out of control... please abruptly remind him that the District has no way to know that this is a fact... only a guess! I think taxpayers deserve more than a guess when it comes to miliions of taxpayer dollars!

Unknown said...

Anonymous, you need to post with a moniker or your post will get deleted.