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Monday, October 15, 2012

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?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another litany about the shortcomings of the district's management and their unwillingness to change, and yet countless other threads on this blog proclaim that charters aren't needed because our district's management is just about to change.

Signed,
Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me

Anonymous said...

So, Fool/Fool, is the answer to this problem really charter schools?

I can't figure out what question one has to ask in order for "guaranteed improvement can be made on that front with charter schools" to be the truthful and honest answer.

Oompah

Greg Linden said...

It is a good point that district management is a problem and that charters are one way of bypassing district management.

On the other hand, the poor performance of charters indicates that isn't a very good solution to the problem.

A better solution would fix district administration. My favorite approach would be to move decision-making down to the schools, then shrink district administration and shift its role to advice and support, but there are other structural changes that could be considered and might help.

Charters would bypass district administration, but, sadly their track record on yielding actual improvements is very poor. It's a shame, really. I'd be inclined to support charters if they worked, but the data says they don't.

Montessori in SPS said...

I have a thought, but I have only been a brief member of the system as a volunteer. Is the format and procedure still the same? How would it be if all the groups sat in restorative circles? This problem seems to reoccur and it takes a lot of time and energy. If there is an insistence on keeping the same pattern of communication,and it isn't working, what other wisdom isoccuring in our culture that people can draw from to make a positive change? My thought is to look into restorative circles.

Greg Linden said...

Someone contacted me by e-mail asking for more details on the data on charter school performance. I already linked to it, but here is a direct link:

http://credo.stanford.edu/research-reports.html

This is a widely cited and well regarded study out of Stanford. The study says 17% of charters had academic gains, 37% actually reduced gains, and the rest were the same as their equivalent public schools. In net, charters, as implemented, appear to do more harm than good, which I agree is unfortunate.

If you're wondering why this could be the case, the problem appears to be that most states find it very hard to close nonperforming charter schools. Usually, the company running the charter sues to try to block closing their school.

Anonymous said...

Here's that transparency in action, Charlie. As of now Seattle Schools is apparently offering our Jane Addams environmentally focused program a big rebuild on the crummy cement Pinehurst lot. Maybe we'll get a proposed-by-Seattle schools rooftop garden to ease the sting of a ruined program! Who knows what happens to the wonderful Pinehurst community!

I couldn't make this planning debacle up if I tried.

For Seattle taxpayers, this means more levy money that Seattle schools hasn't told anyone about two days before it is put to a board vote.

Or perhaps Seattle Schools will decide to put an additional school on the Jane Addams site...that is now also being dangled...but who knows if that is feasible or what it costs.

So to your point Charlie, again ---2 days before a vote the district is insisting on taking --- we have potential displacement of hundreds of students, no knowledge of cost of displacement, assured knowledge that this will kill a program, make elementary crowding worse in the Northeast, and not even solve the middle school overcrowding issue that started this farcical and irresponsible musical chairs.

This is the leadership of the district. And that 'leadership' is taking orders from some very self-centered Ravenna-area parents who want to solve a problem by throwing 2 other schools under the school bus.

Seattle Schools has learned nothing since the ill-fated school closures under Goodloe-Johnson. Taxpayers shouldn't bother allowing Seattle schools to use hundreds of millions of dollars of their money on BEX.

Disgusted Near 130th

Anonymous said...

The irony of the potential Jane Addams move and destruction of their program is not lost on me. The parents who rallied so hard to get the Jane Addams building back for their community at the expense of the Summit community are now reaping what they sowed. Destroying one school community for the good of another never works.

- former Summit parent

Anonymous said...

Whoa, former Summit parent...not so fast on the Reap What You Sow.

It is true that the neighborhood near Summit had not filled that program to capacity, but the idea to repurpose that building came from SPS staff via the board and driven by - who else - the Eckstein area parents who saw overcrowding on the horizon. Newsflash: It is here and NOW we are reaping what the pathetic planning of long-gone staff and some still-current board members sowed.

At that time, the Board had a chance to decide whether Jane Addams stayed as Summit, repurposed to an option program, or opened as a middle school. It managed to choose the worst option - kill Summit, not address boundary changes to fix overcrowding at Eckstein and vote in an option program that was bound to be attacked as crowding got worse. That day is today.

Let's also remember the famous last nail in Summit's coffin Harium Martin-Morris promising to look for a "solution" for Summit...and then at the board meeting when this all went down, suggesting that Summit move to RAINIER BEACH HIGH SCHOOL. Like any parent was going to bus their kids from North Seattle to the southern most point in the district. At that point, Rainier Beach High School itself was threatened to be closed.

When Summit parents' jaw dropped at Martin-Morris' "solution" he washed his hands of the affair. He and Sherry Carr and Michael DeBell were A OK with Jane Addams becoming a K8 option school. Of course not one of the three will own up to that today.

But make no mistake: Staff and board's refusal to do long term planning a few years ago have led to today's situation. Eckstein parents are now beyond frustrated, which explains but does not excuse their current cutthroat behavior to north end parents. (For shame, Eckstein parents...that you stoop to "harm" instead of insist the board and staff do its job to think of other out of the box solutions and "resolve"...)

The story is depressing, most of all because no one ever owns up to their mistakes, especially the board.

I am telling everyone I know not to vote for BEX. If it fails, perhaps the board and staff, urged by a collaborative community, will come back with reasonably thought out plans. Meantime, I will not be fooled twice and yes, I still mourn Summit's tawdry demise.

-skeptical-

Thomas Jefferson said...

I am not troubled by the difference between what is said and what is done.

I expect it.

Large organizations (particularly a government organizations) do not respond very well to the needs of its constituents or consumers.

Anonymous said...

Amen. And that's why, among many many other things, I support I-1240.

Bagley Mom (who drives from Magnolia for Montessori, but who kind of cringes that my daughter goes to a literally crumbling school that isn't deemed worthy of repair.)

LM said...

I echo many of the sentiments about charter schools in the comments section and how they are not a good solution to what I consider ill formed problem statements. I see that we have inconsistent, sloppy management with decisions that aren't regularly evidence-based, but I am left wondering about root causes. Is it a public that is unwilling to rally to hold our school district accountable? Is it something about Seattle culture that enables this behavior? Why do we get these behaviors? I argue against charters, but have no reasonable or credible alternative to propose because I am not clear in my mind the real root causes (culture of lawlessness doesn't answer the question satisfactorily, why is there such a culture?) Would love to hear this community's thoughts.

Patrick said...

Charters would be change, all right. But not all change is progress. It can always get worse.

Patrick said...

The parents who rallied so hard to get the Jane Addams building back for their community...

Wait, what? Our child was enrolled in Jane Addams its first year after Summit was closed. I don't remember any rallies to create a K-8 there. As far as I can tell, that idea came from District staff. Only after that decision was made and the principals were announced did we decide to enroll there, and I think that was typical of the 1st year parents.

It's always sad when a school is closed. But keeping a school with, what, 400 students with no increase in sight in a building that could hold 700 is a problem. Yes, frequent threats of closure make it hard to attract students to an option school, and I wish the District found a smaller building or a site in a less crowded neighborhood for the Summit program to continue.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, The neighborhood did indeed rally hard at meetings to get the Summit kids kicked out so that kids who lived in the neighborhood could go to school in the building without having to interact with those "weird alt school kids". And yes, those words were spoken. Your family might not have been involved but plenty of your neighbors were. It was ugly and it left scars on all sides.
-former Summit parent.

Charlie Mas said...

Oh! I totally forgot the whole "data-based decision-making" thing!

I'll update the post to include it.

JS said...

My experience is the same as Patrick's. We enrolled the 1st year, after JA K-8 was announced. I knew about Summit's struggles, but I never knew about the neighborhood lobbying, and the switch was a done deal by that time.

I guess I'm just saying don't assume the current Jane Addams K-8 families had it in for Summit, especially a few years down the road.

Kristin said...

Thank you for continuing the conversation on this topic of Pinehurst and Jane Addams. As a Pinehurst mom who is just disgusted at the way the district is brushing us off (I'm pretty fresh, daughter is in second year there) I registered http://www.SavePinehurst.org ... I'm grateful to have this site as well as Jane Addams posting in resistance to these proposals and really hope that all this chatter will make a difference. It is a battle that's been fought before...and from what I hear it is a hard one that has been won and lost. District said they would leave Pinehurst alone, we doubled kindergarten enrollment and keep winning awards, yet we are back on the chopping block.

Thank you very much to supporters of the community we call Pinehurst.

Patrick said...

Former Summit parent, you were there and I wasn't so I won't try to tell you what happened. But that is far from a majority view among Jane Addams parents, and was, even in the 1st year of enrollment.

Anonymous said...

@ Kristin: Please share with the blog the awards that Pinehurst K8 has been getting. Because if they are of the academic variety, there is a chance to state your case strongly. If Pinehurst students are achieving in the way that the district claims is paramount for its students, then to close the program should be front page news.

I struggle with the size of Pinehurst vs. the need for space, but I would never advocate for closing an academically successful program, especially one serving diverse students as well as some students who haven't been able to succeed elsewhere. If this is truly the case, how dare SPS building people trample an academic gem.

Anyhow, please share if possible.

EdVoter

Kristin said...

two school of distinction awards in the last five years... i posted links and information at the savepinehurst.org site

kellie said...

I agree that this story has too many echoes of the Summit story.

However, in the end, SPS decided that the era of all-city-bussing was over and killed Summit outright while removing AS1's transportation. It was dishonest of the district to not just admit that transportation was the reason to dissolve rather than relocated Summit.

There were ample opportunities to relocate Summit in a way that would have benefitted the district and families. One option was to colocate Summit and Meany so that Summit was centrally located and to preserve middle school capacity in an area that a few short years later needs a middle school.

The district makes the decisions that it makes - plain and simple. Parents and communities often try to make a better argument to create a better outcome. However, sometimes, it is simply coincidental not causal that there were some parents making an argument that was the same as the final decision.

If parent lobbying had any effectiveness whatsoever, the 08-09 closures would not have happened. Meg Diaz's enrollment presentation with corresponding critique of the closure plan should be required reading for any person working on capacity issues. It was thoughtful, well reasoned and contained substantial data that was footnoted. Meg's presentation was also incredibly articulate and beyond thorough.

Every word was completely disregarded. Why? Because staff said something different and that Meg was wrong.

Parent lobbying is not the issue here. I don't blame any parent for advocating for their student, their community or their part of town.

Anonymous said...

@Patrick

Summit had over 500 students (K-12)in 2008-09, before it was closed, not just 400. I think their middle school was probably about as big as the current middle school at Jane Addams K-8, but their elementary grades were very small, and the kindergarten wasn't filling.

By 2008, there was a severe shortage of kindergarten seats in the NE, and many schools were having to add kindergarten classrooms to already full schools. Elementary capacity was the big need then, so I guess that is why they repurposed the building as a K-8.

As far as what the neighborhood wanted... I live in the neighborhood, and all I've ever heard from my friends and neighbors (pre and post-Summit) was that they wished the building was a middle school. I don't think the neighborhood got what they wanted when a K-8 went in the building, but at least it helped with the elementary over-crowding. Sure, there are some parents up here who really want their kids to go to Eckstein, but I think most of us would be happy with a reasonably-sized good comprehensive middle school closer to home.
-JR Mom

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I couldn't agree more. Most staff I know are great in spite of the district, not because of it. Every year we have new bull$hit rolled out to us as though it's going to cure every woe. And every year we tolerate it, somehow. And then, every year it's tossed out and some new crap comes in. And somehow it's no problem. A lot of my time gets funneled away from my classroom and into asinine busy work for the honchos downtown. They should ask me what I need to be successful, instead of telling me to do some new and random crap that'll be gone in six months anyway.

Exhausted Teacher

Anonymous said...

I should add a little more background to my last post. The reason why many in the neighborhood wanted the JA building to be a middle school (if Summit was relocated and the building repurposed) was because the kids in the 'hood were being bussed past Eckstein, to Hamilton, because there "wasn't room" at Eckstein. Eckstein enrollment, at the time, was around 1000-1100. That all changed with the NSAP, and everybody was promised a seat at Eckstein.

-JR Mom

Charlie Mas said...

To everyone watching it is simply obvious that the District is now in the process of unwinding every single decision made during the Goodloe-Johnson administration.

They are undoing every single decision, but they are insisting - as they reverse themselves - that they were not wrong in the first place.

Why can't they admit error? Don't they see the absurd position they assume when they try to insist that they were right when they were clearly wrong - and were told that they were wrong at the time and are now reversing themselves? Why resist acknowledging error? What is gained from that sort of hubris?


They closed Meany Middle School, moved NOVA out of Mann, and relocated the S.B.O.C., then, just four years later, decided to re-open Meany Middle School, move NOVA back into Mann, and relocate the S.B.O.C. again. That's costing the District about $100 million dollars. No kidding. They spent $50 million to do it and now they are going to spend another $50 million to un-do it. All without ever admitting any error or any regret.

They closed Viewlands, Rainier View, and Fairmount Park, then re-open them a few years later. Without admitting any error.

They tell people that there is no way to re-open McDonald and Sand Point when the people say they need to. Then, within months, announce that they are going to do it.

Don't even get me started on the math.

Charlie Mas said...

Regarding the promise of charters...

I don't see any value in replacing an incompetent but accountable and elected board of directors with an equally incompetent but un-accountable and un-elected board of directors.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see any value in replacing an incompetent but accountable and elected board of directors with an equally incompetent but un-accountable and un-elected board of directors."

That pretty much says it right there. Sadly ...
--monnkeypuzzled

Kristin said...

The part that saddens me, is that by the time us parents seem to really "catch on" to what is going on it is near time to send the kids to college...I know that people in Pinehurst who have fought this battle are exhausted, hoping parents like me and those with younger kids will pick it up yet the history is so rich yet undocumented that it is hard to catch up. Accountability to the families and public sure seems to be lacking if what @Charles wrote is true.

@StrawberryTech

Jan said...

With respect to charters -- I agree with Charlie and monnkeypuzzled. They are no solution.

Charlie says: They say that they are committed to transparency, but they never offer any." Read the charter legislation. Where is there anything that obligates charters to be transparent? To whom will you complain if they are not -- and why would anyone believe that complaining to a state-wide Olympia based "charter commission" about lack of transparency at your dinky school will (or legally can) yield any results (you don't even elect THOSE commissioners -- they are far less accountable to you than board directors).

Charlie says: "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." Once a charter has started (and gotten whatever votes it needs for conversion, if it is a parent-conversion charter), where in the legislation is there any process defining or requiring ongoing community commitment? There is none. If you don't like it -- withdraw your kid (if she hasn't been kicked out already). Just like private schools. They are as accountable (or not) as they choose to be." And they don't have to have parents on their board. And they can appoint, rather than elect, their board -- so don't be getting any ideas there either.

Charlie says: "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."

Charter schools? Well, they will be required to take "everybody," but on a lottery basis if there are too many -- so if they convert your neighborhood school, neighborhood kids not already enrolled will lose access to it, and while they have to take everyone -- they get to discriminate against any who can't fit within their "mission," whatever that is. This is better than immersion schools as attendance schools, I guess, if you want to go back to lottery admissions -- but there was an awful lot of sentiment during NSAP about how parents wanted access, predictability, etc. to local schools. Mostly, that will be gone.

cont'd

Jan said...

cont'd

Charlie said: "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." I see nothing in the 1240 legislation that requires charters to make data based decisions, to conform to any standard for collecting or reviewing data, to remaining open if they want to close (it happens overnight in other states, I am told), to maintain a particular focus if they decide -- after your kid enters, to change from say a project-based STEM school to an "all basics, all the time, uniforms and fines for infractions" school. But it's ok. Your kid can stay. Just everything else may change.


lie said: "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.

Charters? They can do this too! We already know that many of them rely far more on TFA teachers, and they don't have to hire union teachers, or comply with union rules. So, I suppose if these are pluses, bring it on. Charters will make all your "noncompliance" rules come true!

Charlie says: "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."

Will your new "charter" be better? Who knows. Certainly, there are no penalties in the legislation if they choose to break commitments. If parents vote to "convert" a neighborhood school to a charter, and then find themselves in a "nightmare," I see nothing in the legislation that gives them a right to a second vote to revert the school, or to "oust" the charter managers or the school's board (which may be self appointed, not elected). Easy as pie to create a charter under this law. "Crickets" on how to unring the bell if it proves a disaster! Hmm. Who would write such legislation? Surely not anyone profoundly committed to good governance. But maybe someone simply interested in a vehicle to convert public assets to private use.

It is like people who want to use planes as missiles, and thus don't need to know how to land them. If the purpose of charters is to move public assets to the private side -- there is no need for the legislation to have (or contemplate) mechanisms for "returning" those assets to public School District status -- because that "choice" is one that the legislation writers never intend to happen.

Anonymous said...

"(For shame, Eckstein parents...that you stoop to "harm" instead of insist the board and staff do its job to think of other out of the box solutions and "resolve"...)"

Well said!

For shame the board and district, for letting things get so bad.

Goldsmith

Anonymous said...

I agree with Exhausted Teacher. I too am another teacher in SPS that is fed up. I'm exhausted because not only am I working my hardest to instill academics, caring, kindness, and all that jazz into my students, but I'm also working to save my job. You see, I'm on an Improvement Plan that our Union so eagerly agreed to (the Union is another story which I won't get started here!). Knowing from the fate of others who have gone down this path before, I know that I'm on a slippery slope.
So yes, Charlie I want to see this District held accountable to the fullest extent! I want people in positions of power to step up and take responsibility and HAVE to take responsibility. If my job is potentially on the line, then it's only fair that the management of this District go on an Improvement Plan too! Do we need to sue to get our point across? What is it going to take? I'm tired of having my feet held to a fire, but no one else.

Signed,
Feeling the Heat

peacestarts said...

@former Summit parent -

As a current Jane Addams parent I would like to address your statement that our community is "reaping what we sowed".

#1 The majority of the parents currently at the school had nothing to do with the programs inception nor the demise of the Summit program.

#2 The Jane Addams K-8 parents who have been diligently advocating throughout the BEX IV process have expressed regard for other communities and have refrained from throwing any other communities under the bus.

#3 The Jane Addams K-8 community never suggested relocating to the Pinehurst site and we have made other suggestions in since the latest proposal was released(like building the new building on the JA north field).

#4 The community members who were advocating for a new Middle School in the Jane Addams building when Summit was closed are the exact same people who are advocating for the same thing now.

How our community is reaping what we sow is beyond me, knowing what I know.


Fed Up said...

I am just looking forward to when the new JA middle school is ready and the boundary is redrawn and the battle begins among the parents who are advocating to throw the current program aside who will then fight to stay at Eckstein and not go there.

Anonymous said...

You're exactly right Fed-Up. All the Ecksteiners can ALREADY go elsewhere. Is Eckstein horrible? Oh gee. It's old. It's crowded. There are portables. But is it TERRIBLE? They can sign up for JA RIGHT NOW. They can sign up for Pinehurst RIGHT NOW. They can sign up for Salmon Bay RIGHT NOW, may or may not get in that one. If you're looking to improve your lot in life with a better building - there they are. If you want your kids to have their own lockers - there they are. If you're looking to access to high schools and high school material - there it is across the street at Hale. All that is ready and waiting for you to take them. All with fine educations. If you're just looking to kick out some of your kids classmates - so that you can have more room, then this plan's for you! I guess that's a reason to support this plan. Because anybody who really cares about relieving their own crowding - can ALREADY have relief. And right on. Let the boundary battles begin. See how you like that?

When your kid gets assigned to ExcessKidOverflow Middle NE (most likely with ExcessPrincipalScrewup) - you might just wish you had a JA or a Pinehurst instead!

-parent

Charlie Mas said...

It would not be hard to figure which elementary school attendance areas will be in the Jane Addams service area and which will be in the Eckstein service area.

I would guess that students living in the Olympic Hills, John Rogers, Sacajawea and Olympic View attendance areas will be assigned to Jane Addams while students living in the Sand Point, Bryant, View Ridge, Wedgwood and Green Lake attendance areas will be assigned to Eckstein.

It is possible that Green Lake students could be assigned to Pacific Middle School instead.

This is fun! Let's guess how the District will divide Whitman and the new Pacific Middle School service areas!

I'll guess that Broadview-Thomson, Northgate, Bagley, Viewlands, and Greenwood go to Pacific while North Beach, Loyal Heights, Whittier, and Adams go to Whitman.

That leaves West Woodland, B.F. Day, JSIS, McDonald, and Laurelhurst for Hamilton - just as it is now, but it won't be as crowsed because APP will leave Hamilton and be divided between Pacific and Eckstein.

Fed Up said...

I am sorry I was so snarky. I should not contribute to pitting school communities against each other - but the email from Eckstein parents sent me over the edge.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh.....
the smell of internal and communtity strife when "professionals" and "leaders" don't do their jobs in a professional or leader-like manner.

Sue in Zen Field

p.s. now do you know why she took the Highline job?

Kristin said...

The awards recently won by Pinehurst include two "School of Distinction" awards and one one "Washington Achievment Award" all within the last three years... :'-(

Now we are already getting graffiti popping up in response...see site for pix of these awards etc. http://www.pinehurstk8.org

Inside, as well said...

Hey "Feeling the heat":

They don't fear lawsuits as they have unlimited resources (our tax dollars) to fight against us.

And they spend that lavishly.