Monday, December 31, 2012

Following Up on 2012

Over at Friend of our Blog, Seattle Education, Dora Taylor has a great thread about the expose by FireDogLake about Cory Booker and the $100M gift to Newark Public Schools from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

Apparently the ACLU had to sue Cory "Superman" Booker for release of e-mails between him and Facebook executives.

It started on Oprah.

Facebook founder and Winklevii nemesis Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million donation to Newark schools to blunt PR damage from the release of The Social Network help school children. The money would not be going into the struggling city’s budget but would be privately controlled with Newark Mayor Cory Booker providing guidance.

Yes, money used to transform Newark public schools would be administered privately and, until recently, in secret from the people of Newark.

Booker said there were no e-mails.  The story shows that to be a bald-faced lie.  (And the next anonymous person who gets huffy here over anytime we publish public e-mails should remember that it's your tax dollars and we all have a right to know what is going on in government.)


The city also argued Newark Mayor Cory Booker was not acting in his official capacity as mayor when he accepted Zuckerberg’s pledge on the Oprah Winfrey show. 

Judge Rachel N. Davidson rejected all those arguments, noting for instance that a press release on the City of Newark’s own website touts Booker’s involvement in the donation as mayor and that all of the emails in dispute are maintained by Booker’s executive assistant in Newark City Hall. The judge also noted that Booker’s role as mayor is repeated in statements about the donation that are mentioned on his campaign website, as well as in some of the emails that are being sought.

And the money spent to woo parents and community?

A week before the September 2010 donation was public, Sandberg asked Booker in an email about spending plans for the first 100 days and details of how the mayor planned to obtain support from residents.

Booker wrote: “This is one of our biggest concerns right now as we must be ahead of the game on community organizing by next week.” A mayoral adviser outlined a rough plan to spend $315,000 on efforts such as polling, focus groups, mailing and consultants. The foundation has spent at least $2 million on such efforts since.

Two million to persuade parents and community that Cory Booker and Facebook know what is best for public education in Newark.  

What did I just say in my previous thread about wealthy people and their influence over the course of public education in the U.S.?  And all this while Booker positions himself for higher office?

Yes, attention must be paid.

End of 2012 - Wrap-up and Hopes and Predictions for 2013

A rosy glow this morning across the horizon - maybe a good sign for things to come.

It was a HUGE year for public education - in Seattle, Washington State and the US.  For whatever reason, public education has become a huge issue.  Whether it's trying to break unions (in Wisconsin) or the push for more on-line learning opportunities (whether at school or at home), politicians had a lot to say this year. 

Are we focusing on the right things?  I'm not sure we are.  I'm not sure that we won't look back in 10 years at much of the new education spending in this country and wonder if much of it was wasted on the wrong areas.  Or that there was too much effort made in directions that did not pay off. 

One of the drivers of this - and it shouldn't be the biggest driver - is the large group of wealthy philanthropists who believe they know enough to try to determine the course of public education over the next 10 years.  And yet, they are not elected, hired or appointed so it is puzzling why their ideas should take precedence over anyone else's. 

Locally, we lost a superintendent, Susan Enfield, and the mystery of why she left remains.  There is disagreement on what drove her off but I stand by my contention that there were personal reasons why she left (she even said this - repeatedly) that no one will ever know.  I think the loud public stance that she was "driven" off was a useful public diversion. 

We had yet another superintendent search - again, a messy one - but we had two viable candidates standing at the end and, I believe, picked the best one AND the one best suited to guide our district in Jose Banda.  

Sadly, we also had the death of our former superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson.  It was a shocking turn of events for a woman who had so shook up our district. 

We saw two new School Board members come to the Board in Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslee.  I would say they are still getting their sea legs but as Director Patu said to me recently, it takes a long time to know the district and understand how to get things done.  (Director Patu did confirm that she IS running again in November 2013 to retain her seat.)  But both Director McLaren and Director Peaslee have shown some backbone and resolve in asking hard questions and being able to take hard votes. 

We saw a terrible situation in the Cafe Racer shooting where multiple schools in two areas of the district had to face lockdowns.   It seemed to happen fairly seamlessly (for an on-going situation that was fluid) and to their everlasting credit, the SPD found the heartless perpetrator the same day. 


- I hope that Superintendent Banda takes some strong (and visible) steps in the new year that signal his strength as our superintendent.
- I hope that more parents say no to MAP testing.  I continue to believe that, overall, it is a waste of time and money.  (A coming thread about MAP is in the hopper.)
- I hope that parents will convince neighbors, co-workers, friends and families to support the upcoming levies

I would tell you to vote your heart, not just your conscience.  By that I mean that you consider where we stand today as a district. 

We are cash-strapped, over-capacity in several areas that are yearning/demanding relief and our academic growth is stagnant.   McCleary's outcomes, despite the prodding of the Court, are unclear and relief from the state level is not going to come any time soon. 

I don't want charters, especially conversion charters, to get ANY levy money.  I know it is in the initiative that they will.  But, as I said countless times during the election, it is a badly written piece of work and I don't know that it will end up happening anyway (and districts may be able to undercut it or drag it out). 

I don't like money going for a downtown school when that is a want and NOT a need.  But we need the BEX money (and your pressure) to make sure that 99% of it goes to EXISTING schools that need the help.

So I am hoping everyone will vote for the levies.  

- I hope that we all find common ground to work together to move our district forward.  I do not believe most understand the force that parents could be in this district.  It is time to channel that power.


- I think people might be surprised/disappointed at who does (and does not) make the Charter Commission.  I suspect that it won't be the usual suspects.  I think that Governor-elect Inslee, Lt. Governor Owen and Speaker Chopp know it will be important to get the right people to start the Commission, that it needs to be broad-based and most of all, there needs to be objectivity on the Commission so it is not a bunch of charter cheerleaders.  (And frankly, I think they know there is no way to enforce the initiative's language about Commission members' fidelity to charters - good luck with that one). 

- Board elections.  This could get very expensive and very hard-hitting.  Frankly, it shouldn't because of all races, Board elections are generally genteel affairs.  But, as we saw from this year's elections, Stand for Children and other groups are going to be highly aggressive in putting out candidates and money to support them.  Look for the first TFA-affiliated candidate to run for Seattle School Board. 

If you know of good possible candidates from Michael DeBell's region, please let me know.  Director DeBell has mostly said he is not running but I have heard nothing official.

(That said, I suspect he may have thrown his hat into the Charter Commission ring.  It might be possible that he could step down from the Board - as might Harium Martin-Morris - to be on the Commission.  I say step down as I don't believe a person could serve on a School Board and be on the Charter Commission but it would be a great hat trick if so.  Both Martin-Morris and DeBell, over the last years, have shown themselves to be increasingly ambitious and I wonder if the Board might be a little constricting to them.)

- Levy election.  I suspect both will pass but by more narrow margins than usual.

- Mayor's race.  No, I have no prediction except that as the field gets bigger, McGinn's chances out of the primary get better.  I wish Ed Murray wasn't running - we need him in the Legislature.  I have contacted all the candidates campaigns (save Kate Martin but I know her) to interview them about being Mayor and what they see for public education in Seattle. 

- Parents.  I think this may be the year of the parent in public education in this country.  I sense a lot of unhappiness with being pushed and pulled around.  (I note that in Philadelphia, they are trying to close 1 in 6 public schools.  More on that later but you could understand why parents might be upset.)

I plan a thread on parent groups and what choices you have. 

- Gun control.  I personally plan to keep this in the forefront of my thoughts.  Enough is enough and I hope many of you will join me.

On behalf of Charlie and myself, best wishes for a happy and safe New Year's Eve and, for the coming year, as Maurice Sendak told NPR's Terry Gross - "live your life, live your life, live your life.

or, as Ferris Bueller said:
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 

That goes ditto for raising children.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Open Thread

From Ed Week, a report on international tests (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and how the US fared.

Florida came up a big winner on PIRLS, in terms of average scores (more on that in a bit). On TIMSS, Massachusetts, mirroring its strong performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, did very well in both science and math, compared with the United States and other high-performing countries and education systems. However, the good news largely evaporates when you look at the percentages of students that scored "advanced," "high," "intermediate," or "low" on the tests, the formal benchmark names for performance levels. In terms of the share of students scoring at the top level, or advanced, other high-performing countries leave many U.S. states eating dust.

Also, of interest, a report on digital education and devices used by children from Ed Week.

 The Federal Trade Commission has approved revised rules that spell out the types of information that cannot be collected from children without their parents' permission, an action meant to address privacy concerns in the constantly evolving era of smartphones, tablets, social media, and apps. 

 The new policies, announced Wednesday, seek to close loopholes that the agency says too often allow websites and online services to gather information improperly from students and turn it over to third parties for advertising purposes. 

 One significant change clarifies that the types of "personal information" that can't be culled without parents' approval include geolocation information, photos, and videos.

What's on your mind?

(Also, I had mentioned a possible meeting about BEX IV and what parents believe would work best/has the most support.  Is there any interest in such a meeting before school starts?)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Right Time, Right Book?

The NY Times is having a discussion over the right time for which books i.e. should a 6-year old read Harry Potter?  There are a series of short essays from various people on the subject. 

As a former children's bookseller, I would err on the side of waiting for certain books.  You can read almost any book to any child at any time but many themes are possibly too big for some kids as presented in some books.

They could read them at 6 and then again at 12 and get something different.  That would be okay (and to be expected) except that if the theme worries the child or causes upset at a younger age, was that worth it? 

Those books will always be there; it's not like they go away.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Education Reading Round-Up

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet, an article about D.C.'s county superintendent calling on President Obama and Secretary Duncan to call a moratorium on standardized testing.

He also said it was wrong to evaluate teachers based on the scores their students get on standardized tests because the method that is is based on “bad science.” He noted that he had previously worked in the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school system, where was director of school performance and accountability. It became clear, he said, that the formulas used to assess a teacher’s value with the use of test scores had huge margins of error, as much as 55 points.
In fact, he said that a good way to create assessments for Common Core-aligned curriculum would be to crowd-source the development and let teachers design them rather than have corporations do it. He criticized policies that help make public education 
“a private commodity.”
An op-ed from Ed Week about equity in education by Pedro Noguera.

In a report entitled "E Pluribus...Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students", the Civil Rights Project at UCLA has documented that a growing number of Black and Latino students attend racially isolated public schools. The report also points out that "The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration, has taken no significant action to increase school integration or to help stabilize diverse schools as racial change occurs in urban and suburban housing markets and schools." It is important to note that this retreat from the commitment made by the Brown decision to reduce segregation "with all deliberate speed", is occurring as our nation is becoming more racially diverse. We should be doing all we can to prepare young people to function in a more heterogeneous society. Instead, not only are our schools becoming more racially homogenous, they are also blatantly unequal.

Also along those lines, here's a link to The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and their latest work, E Pluribus...Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students. 

This report shows that segregation has increased seriously across the country for Latino students, who are attending more intensely segregated and impoverished schools than they have for generations. 

In spite of declining residential segregation for black families and large-scale movement to the suburbs in most parts of the country, school segregation remains very high for black students.  It is also double segregation by both race and poverty.  

Small positive steps in civil rights enforcement have been undermined by the Obama Administration’s strong pressure on states to expand charter schools - the most segregated sector of schools for black students.

This country, whose traditions and laws were built around a white, middle class society with a significant black minority, is now multiracial and poorer, with predominately nonwhite schools in our two largest regions, the West and the South. In the following report, we underscore the fact that simply sitting next to a white student does not guarantee better educational outcomes for students of color. Instead, the resources that are consistently linked to predominately white and/or wealthy schools help foster real and serious educational advantages over minority segregated settings. 

From Education Week, a story about a gifted program expanding in Connecticut. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Charlie and I will naturally be on a bit of a hiatus through the end of the year. 

My computer desktop is flooded with many ed articles and I may throw up a couple of "ed reading" posts. 

Otherwise, consider the Interim Plan for capacity management with your friends and be prepared to state your case in early January. 

Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ballard HS Security Issue Today

Not sure what happened but Ballard HS didn't have their scheduled Winter Sports Assembly due to some kind of security concern.  SPD was called in but apparently nothing happened and nothing was found.  I have no other details as the district is now closed for the winter break.  Maybe they will issue a statement.

Update on security from Superintendent Banda and President Smith-Blum:

Superintendent José Banda and School Board President Kay Smith-Blum are releasing a joint statement on the NRA's proposal to have armed guards in schools. 

The safety of our students and schools is of utmost importance to us. Our schools have a zero-tolerance policy on weapons on school grounds. We do not believe adding guns to our schools will accomplish the goal of keeping our students safer. 

We agree with Governor Gregoire and President Obama calling for action, including a ban on assault weapons. Further, as a community, we must have deeper conversations about the availability of weapons and the amount of violence our children are exposed to on a daily basis.

There will be solutions moving forward from last week's tragedy. We are forming a joint working group with the Seattle Police Department and our community to develop recommendations for improving school safety.

SPS To Pay Out to Teacher Over Health Issues at Hale

From the Times (and thanks to a reader tip!):

A former Seattle teacher has reached a $750,000 settlement from the public-school district that fired her seven years ago for not returning to work in a school building she said was harmful to her health.

The teacher, 14-year drama and language instructor Denise Frisino, sued Seattle Public Schools after the district fired her from Nathan Hale High School in 2005, according to court documents.

The lawsuit was initially thrown out by a King County judge, but an appeals court overturned that decision and the two parties settled on the eve of a scheduled new trial this fall. The settlement, finalized this week, did not constitute an admission of guilt, according to attorneys on both sides.

What to think?

Well, I know there were definitely mold issues at Hale and these were documented and affected students as well.

Sometimes I wish the district would know when to fight and when to not fight.  The lawyers fees on this case are probably huge and now there $750K out the door.  (I don't know; is there insurance coverage for this?)

Hey Wayne - You are Disingenious, Wrong and an Idiot

 Update: statement from SPS on the NRA statement.

We are forming a joint working group with the Seattle Police Department to study all recommendations for improving our school safety, and this effort will begin early in 2013. Together, we will formulate sustainable plans for implementing improved safety measures across the District.

The security of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we look forward to working with our staff and community partners to implement improved safety measures across the District.
End of update.

I rarely call people names here.  Not useful and there are better ways to say you disagree with people.

But head of NRA, Wayne LaPierre - an idiot.  Here's what he is saying in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings:
  •  "How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"  Wayne, your group doesn't even support an active national database of gun owners.
  • All schools need armed security personnel.  He almost makes it sound like a jobs program.
  • If there had been an armed person at Sandy Hook, 26 lives would have been saved (I note that Columbine DID have an armed security person.  How did that work out?)
  • "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun", he said.  Apparently, NOTHING else matters or can be done.
  • To that end, the NRA will fund an initiative to develop a "National School Shield Emergency Response Program" for schools that want it, LaPierre said.
  • Schools remain a target for criminal gunmen because they are not protected by armed security the way other important institutions are, he said.
  • "There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt shadow industry that sows violence against its own people," naming games like Grand Theft Auto and films like Natural Born Killers and American Psycho.  Uh, Wayne those "shadows" major film companies and entertainments companies whose stock is traded on Wall Street.  And, there is no research that truly shows that this violent entertainment creates violence or violent people. 
  • "A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators."
    Again, Wayne, it takes parents, who turn on and off the tv and buy and watch these games and films.  Look in the mirror if this issue is your complaint - who is at fault?

  •  NRA president Dave Keene's somewhat contradictory statement to reporters: 'This is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won’t be taking questions today.'  

    What LaPierre is saying, really, is that we are a nation of crazy people and we should continue to expect these killings and the best way to handle that is to have armed guards at every school.

    What does that say about our country?  Is that who we are?  Is this what we accept about ourselves?  

    Where is the notion that we spend money ON the mentally ill, not bring armed guards into every school?  

    Arming schools does NOT solve the problem.  That's the issue he misses entirely.  So he either dumb or an idiot.  I choose the latter. 

    Let's go have a quiet, peaceful and safe holiday and come back in the new year with a renewed sense of getting this right for our schools and our country.  I have some suggestions and I'll put them out after the first of the year.

Let's see;

- dark and dreary, check
- one week since one of the most horrific days in American public education, check
- NOT the end of the world day (but some still don't get that)

Time for the holiday break.  Great.  Let's ALL take a break, a breath and count our blessings.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Schools First Release Press Release on 2013 Levies

From Schools First (the group that works to support SPS levies):

Seattle (December 17) Schools First, the grassroots, volunteer-led campaign organization that convenes every three years to build support among Seattle voters for renewing the Seattle Schools operating and capital levies, announced today that it has begun its work to pass the 2013 levies, which will be on the ballot on February 12.

The Operations Levy provides more than a quarter of the funds needed to operate the Seattle Public Schools, including funding for day-to-day teaching and instructional programs such as a sixth period for high school. The Capital Levy (BEX IV) will provide essential funding to maintain and improve Seattle’s aging existing schools, provide earthquake safety upgrades at 37 schools, and build and renovate schools in growing communities across the city.
These levies replace the expiring operating and capital levies.
“It is important to note that both of these critically important levies are renewals of existing levies,” said Greg Wong, an attorney at Pacifica Law Group and the current president of Schools First. “The operating levy is essential to keep our schools functioning, and with over one-third of Seattle’s school buildings more than 50 years old, the capital levy renews our commitment to providing safe, quality schools for our kids.”
Honorary campaign co-chairs include King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, while Schools First’s Finance Committee is chaired by Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable.
“You can’t have a great city without vibrant and successful schools,” Mullin said. “Now, as academic performance and graduation rates in our schools have begun to show improvement, we need to step up to make sure the progress continues by providing the necessary resources to educate the growing number of children entering Seattle’s public schools.”
Enrollment in Seattle Public Schools has begun to grow rapidly, and demographic projections show that growth continuing. This year alone, 1,400 additional students enrolled in the Seattle schools, and that trend is expected to continue.
“Increasingly parents with young children here in Seattle are choosing to enroll their children in public schools.  We all have a lot of work to do to live up to that responsibility. To serve all of our families we need to ensure that there is a safe, secure, and modern learning environment for every child who comes to our doors,” adds Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp.

I deeply appreciate and support the work of Schools First.  But this press release does NOT convey the urgency of either levy or the dire situation of capital funds and facilities.

The State has not fully-funded our schools and is under court order to do so but you wouldn't know that from this press release.

Our schools are bursting at the seams in some areas but you wouldn't understand that from this press release.

Is this how they plan to sell two levies for over $1B?  I'm not sure I get this strategy.

Seattle Schools Updates

Dear families,
The Seattle School District is reviewing whether it should apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver, to allow the three full-day parent teacher conference schedule to continue for elementary and K-8 schools. The waiver also seeks one day for middle and high schools.
Your input is valuable to us as we consider this decision. Parent-teacher conferences are important to ensuring direct communications between classroom teachers and families, and we want to make sure that we gather input from as many families as possible about these meetings. We have prepared a brief survey that should take 5-10 minutes to complete. The survey will close on Friday, January 11th at 5:00 p.m. 

The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Parent-Teacher-Conferences-Jan2012
We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your feedback.
Michael Tolley
Interim Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning
Seattle Public Schools

Also from the Superintendent:

Dear Seattle Public Schools community,

As we head into winter break, I know many of us are still reflecting on the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and how we can work together to ensure our schools are a safe place for our students.

I want to take a moment to let you know how important safety is at Seattle Public Schools, what steps we’ve taken since last Friday and what we plan to do in the future to protect our students.

We take the safety of our students very seriously. Once a month, each school conducts at least one safety-related drill. Every school has a safety plan that outlines procedures for prevention, mitigation, response and recovery in the event of a crisis. We have a team of security specialists divided by region who are in schools and able to respond quickly in times of a crisis. 

After hearing of the news last Friday, we asked our principals to be extra vigilant in their schools. This week our schools have continued this vigilance, monitoring entrances, hallways and any visitors to our buildings. Additionally, we are continuing to work with the Seattle Police Department. Officers provided extra support to our schools and coordinated additional patrols in our school zones this past week. We are grateful for the ongoing partnership.  

In the New Year, we will continue our increased focus on school safety. In the weeks to come, our security team will meet with principals to review safety plans and ensure each building is equipped to handle potential incidents. 

While we already have a strong partnership with the Seattle Police Department, we are jointly forming a working group to look at ways to improve our school safety. As more information becomes available from Connecticut and as our nation continues to have discussions about school safety, this working group will review recommendations from the Department of Education and law enforcement. Together, we will work on sustainable plans for implementing improved safety measures across the District. 

I know many of you are asking how you can best help. If you have suggestions or ideas specifically for your school, please contact your principal. If you have a suggestion to improve the safety across the District, please email us at securityoff@seattleschools.org

Our hearts continue to mourn for the students and staff in Newtown and for the loss of innocence so many of our young children across the nation have suffered. Seattle Public Schools staff will work hard in the New Year to continue making safety our top concern. 

I hope you all are able to spend time with loved ones over the next two weeks. Although my children are grown, I am looking forward to giving them an extra hug when I see them during the winter break.


Jose Banda

New Interim Principal at Lafayette Elementary

From the West Seattle Blog:

Seattle Public Schools just announced that another elementary principal from West Seattle is being promoted to management downtown – this time Lafayette’s newest principal Shauna Heath, after just a few months.

From the district:

Today I’m announcing a leadership change at Lafayette. Your principal, Shauna Heath, has been appointed Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction. In her new role, Ms. Heath will oversee Early Learning, College and Career Readiness and core content areas.

I know Lafayette staff and families went through a principal search process last summer, and I understand it is a hardship to have a leadership change mid-year. But we need Ms. Heath’s leadership to help all of our nearly 50,000 students. Congratulations to Ms. Heath, and I know she will be missed at Lafayette.

Birgit McShane has been appointed interim principal. This is effective Jan. 7, and Ms. Heath will be available to ensure a smooth transition. Ms. McShane is a long-time educator and retired principal. She is a graduate of Seattle Public Schools and spent more than 30 years as an educator in the District – including serving as the principal at Graham Hill Elementary and Daniel Bagley Elementary — before retiring in 2006. She also recently served as interim principal at Leschi Elementary when the principal was on maternity leave.

We will move quickly to form a hiring committee. Carmela Dellino, Executive Director of Schools for West Seattle, will attend the Jan. 17 PTA meeting, along with our Human Resources staff, to gain parent input regarding desired qualities of their principal. We will also meet with Lafayette staff next month.

We will also draft and send out an electronic survey to gather additional input from families. We hope to post the position by Jan. 21. A team of staff and family members will interview candidates, with a first round of interviews completed by the end of February. Our goal is to have someone in place by the end of March.

I recognize that leadership change creates a distraction in the school. But I am confident the Lafayette staff will ensure strong teaching and learning continues during the next several months.
José Banda

Those of us who know of Birgit McShane's work (a lot at Bagley Elementary) know that Lafayette is in GOOD hands.  She's a great, steady leader.  

WA State Supreme Court Ruling to Leg - Get Busy

From the Times:

The Washington Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state Legislature isn't making enough progress toward finding more money for K-12 education in answer to the court's decision in the McCleary school funding lawsuit.

The high court told lawmakers they must have something better to report after they finish their work in spring 2013.

"Steady progress requires forward movement. Slowing the pace of funding cuts is necessary, but it does not equate to forward progress," wrote Chief Justice Barbara Madsen in the order filed Thursday.

So there.

NE Middle School Options

Here is the Excel sheet for the options for the NE middle school situation.  My understanding is it is a combo of ideas from staff and FACMAC. 

During the Work Session the discussion went as follows:

- They were first discussing what appeared in the presentation and what FACMAC was recommending. FACMAC was recommending an Eckstein split - North and South Annexes.   Director Peaslee clarified that this was really a split and not a temporary annexation.  The answer was yes.

- There was also this discussion about Jane Addams and beefing up its middle school offerings to fill the school.   (They called this "mitigation.")  But, as Director DeBell pointed out, how long could that go on and how could the district afford it?  (And, if they did this for JA, why not all K-8s?)

- One interesting thing is how the district seems very committed to making sure that Eckstein North would have the same things as Eckstein South.  Phil Brockman spoke of the great music at Eckstein now and how they would have to find a "great" music teacher for Eckstein North.  Which is great but are we making sure ALL schools with music offerings have the same kind of attention?

- Director Carr pointed out that even if the district committed to mitigation to beef up JA's enrollment, wouldn't it go away?  The answer was yes.

- There was also input from staff about how unhappy people are with the situation at Eckstein.  Pegi McEvoy said the students couldn't make through the lunchlines.  Now, I have absolutely no doubt that is wildly true at Eckstein but there are MANY middle and high schools in this district with the same situation.  There has to be a better reason for change than that one.

- McEvoy also said annexing would be problematic because of CBA issues.  This gets cloudy in the later discussion as you can see.

- Both DeBell and Carr, towards the end, spoke up more forcefully.  Carr said they can't have schools with empty seats when others are overcrowded (speaking of JA).  DeBell also weighed in about not being able to have the same offerings for the 6-8 experience at a K-8 as for a comprehensive middle school.  It sounded like he was not going to make apologies for it (and he shouldn't).

One issue that needs absolute clarity to parents is that K-8s are a different animal than a comprehensive middle school.  And, that parents who make that K-8 choice need to understand that the issue of offerings - both in-school and after-school - will not change for them once they have a middle schooler.  That is how the district sees it and it is the trade-off for being in a K-8.

Is it fair or equitable?  Maybe not but no one gets all that they want.  Comprehensives get more because their tradeoff is much larger populations.  K-8s get a smaller and more homey school but, in return, less money because of fewer students (and the ability to pay for more).

- Then we got to the "new" pages and options for NE middle schools.  It came out of nowhere and, as you can see, that is one complicated Excel sheet.  Director DeBell said "we aren't going to debate this all tonight" but that scenario 5 looked good.  How he could determine that in a quick first look at the page, I don't know.

But let's walk through them:

Waiting Until the Nth Hour

Despite the weather, several of us came to last night's Work Session believing we would see some real progress in what the interim plan for capacity management might be for 2013-2104.  I left at 7:45 p.m. shaking my head.

Once AGAIN, the district is a day late and a dollar short. 

I know staff works hard.  I know they want to get input via the public both formal (FACMAC) and informal (community meetings).  But it's December 20th (and neigh the end of the world upon us) and NOW they have new ideas?  Even as they heard, for MONTHS, that they were not addressing the north end middle school issues?

I guess I could say congratulations to all the NE parents who stood up and said, "You need to solve this."  But school starts up on Jan 7th with a "plan" to be presented at the Board meeting on Jan. 9th.   Once parents look at these new ideas (and there are five of them), how will the Board and staff know which one(s) parents believe will work best?  What school staff believe?

This is holiday break time which means no meetings and no time to walk thru each idea.  (I'm thinking of having a meeting of my own simply to gauge what NE parents are thinking and presenting it to the Board and staff.)  Having single e-mails come in will only muddy the waters (and that's if parents are even paying attention at this point).

Two MAJOR points:

- the NE has a large number of options now and those need to be vetted and carefully considered.  And that means consideration down the road and NOT just for next year.

- it appears that boundary changes are NOT off the table for 2013-2014 AND that major boundary changes ARE coming for 2014-2015.   This upheaval of capacity management will now ripple out far and wide.  Be aware of that.

I'm going to run through most of the meeting and then get to the NE which is where the real meat of the discussion is.

FACMAC had their recommendations out.  This was good but odd because my understanding is that the FACMAC committee did not see this before the Board.  I would have thought that they would be the first to read what they were recommending.  I'll have to ask the chairs about that.

One chair, Elizabeth Wong, sat with staff and Board members and gave a careful accounting of their recommendations.  She put forth that the most important thing is the alignment by the staff of short, intermediate and long-term capacity management plans.  "The community needs to see the continuum."

She called for the minimum of disruption to the least number of students from any interim plan with the maximum benefit to as many students as possible.

From their recommendations and those of the staff, it would seem that annexing kindergarteners in West Seattle is off the table.  Any problems at those schools, portables will have to solve.

One continuing issues - that I'm not sure many are totally aware of - is where schools that are having a building renovated will go to during that renovation time.  Our district is completely dedicated to moving off-site.  I have heard various reasons (and I get some of them) but I will point out that it is NOT the norm in most districts.

That this consideration is one of the DRIVING issues on capacity management is troubling.  One example is where Olympic Hills will go during their renovation.  I think it looks like they may take over the Cedar Park facility (as is the district's right but yes, it will disrupt what the community has been doing in and around it for a very long time).

I did hear an alternative idea for the Central Area (not from FACMAC or staff but by a parent) who suggested that Madrona K-8 move to Lowell and Nova takes over Madrona's building (thereby allowing for the expansion they desire).  That would fill Lowell, allow more room at Meany and move the Mann building to the END of the BEX list since it would not be needed immediately.

One good point that was made by President Smith-Blum (and I think most agree) is that the grandfathering of sibs and transportation needs to end sooner rather than later.  We need to TRULY see how the plan plays out in real time.

If we have NSAP, the district needs to get on it to full implementation and not continue to drag out these issues.  If you choose to go to an Option School, you may have to provide transportation.  Is that entirely equitable?  No, but again, the district also doesn't have money to spend on transportation.  Does that mean that some sibs at JSIS may have to split up?  Yes, but other families have had to face down that choice and I'm not sure program trumps the NSAP (and certainly not just one program.)

 The Board did ask some questions about all these portables.  The costs do NOT include operations and as President Smith-Blum pointed out, those are real costs.  Director DeBell also pointed out that the money does not include removal costs in the future nor the impacts on core facilities.

A lot has not changed since staff's last capacity management presentation for areas other than the NE.

They did include adding Hughes as a possibility for STEM K-5 since FACMAC suggested it.  They also are considering the FACMAC rec of reopening Fairmount Park as a neighborhood school but not for 2013-2014.

President Smith-Blum, upon noting a portable to be at Stevens, said that she did not believe there was space for it but staff assured here there was.  She said she believed that the boundaries in her region for elementaries had really not been thought out and I think that is a direct signal that those will change in the future.

Long discussion over Adams Elementary and the possible loss of their music room which would be a major impact to their program.  There had been a possible idea of the students using some space at a nearby community center but DeBell doesn't believe that is feasible.  In fact, he stated that Ballard is growing and with "condo towers" going up, they may even have to reopen Webster (which is now a museum).  This is the first time I have ever heard him publicly express this concern.

What was interesting on this point about music is that the Work Session prior to this one was about a grant the district is managing to put more arts - in a real and concrete way - into SPS.  (More on that later.)

DeBell also expressed that McClure has seats and like JA, needs to have them filled. 

Denny would be getting two double portables.  Didn't we just building them a new building and update Sealth and now both are full?  Amazing.

President Smith-Blum asked about the alternative scheduling and said she is for "staggered scheduling".  Interesting, I'll have to ask her about this.

There was a bright note about how some students at some schools are accessing higher level classes by merely going across the street to another school (Hay to McClure and JA to Hale).  There is encouragement that more of this might be happening in the future.

I am going to write a separate thread about the NE but here is the updated presentation with new ideas on pages 26/27.  There was a far more detailed document handed out but I will have to try to get an electronic copy of that one.   I will try to get that done by the end of the day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Odds and Ends

Olympic Hills Capacity Mtg on Monday night
Packed house, I was almost surprised they had it such a small school but it was cozy. 

Attendees - SPS staff, Directors Peaslee and Carr (but oddly, not Martin-Morris as one of the central issues was Eckstein that sits in his district) and FACMAC co-chairs and other members of the Committee.  Rep. Gerry Pollet also was in attendance.  The room was packed full.

I liked the way this meeting went.  There was just a brief presentation, then principal Zoe Jenkins did a roll call of sorts of what schools were there.  She listed them on a blackboard, plus a spot for community input.  She then handed out a card for each school to anyone who wanted to speak.  In that way, we had input from all schools plus a rotation of speakers.   There were about 12 schools represented.

What I did hear firmly:

- Pinehurst is to stay in place.  No mention of exactly what that would then mean for Jane Addams. 

That's it.

The testimony, while sometimes funny and sometimes moving, but always respectful (to everyone's credit), really didn't move the dial. 

What I did hear:

- people understand a short-term plan for next year but they also worry about why they see no long-term plan.  (Answer from me: because they are doing triage, not planning.  Sorry but that's what it looks like.  Also, the uncertainly of BEX may be holding staff back from saying anything out loud.)

- some want every seat filled.  So because Jane Addams is moving towards filling their school, since the seats are needed, JA should move.  Well, if that is the reasoning then I can think of several not-full schools that should be moving and yet that's not happening.

- Pinehurst and JA parents just worry about stability and long-term enrollment.  They're right.  It is very hard to attract parents if the district doesn't make a long-term commitment to a program. 

- lots of opposition to retaining current 5th graders at Lincoln into 6th grade there.  I think the fairness issues made sense to many in attendance.  And, as one student said himself, he'd leave APP before he left Hamilton. 

- Wild card - John Marshall.  It's like spinning a wheel - where will it stop?  There are many needs and only one John Marshall.

- Eckstein parents are making a case not just against overcrowding but for safety as well.  I think their frustration (and rightly so) is that the district is doing nothing about it for a whole year.  On the other hand, there are a lot of unsafe school conditions in SPS that have been routinely ignored for years.  I pointed out that when my sons were at Eckstein and I thought it overcrowded at 1150, I was told there were 2,000 students there in the '70s and to quit whining.

-The evening ended on a poignant note.  There was a mom who has a Down's Syndrome child in SPS.   She said they had to work very hard to find a school for him but now he is in a place where he is loved and accepted.  She said she understood spreadsheets and capacity but there is a human element to moving these children around and for some, an incredible hardship.

RTTT - Now What?

Short article from Ed Week about the vast implementation needs of getting RTTT money.  I know Mary Jean Ryan who has been working on this project and I'll have to ask her how they think it will work.  

The list of amendments is quite long for state Race to the Top winners, which are still struggling to keep up with all of their promises. Many had trouble finding enough qualified staff members to jump-start their plans, and capacity within budget-strapped state departments of education remains an issue.
And the same capacity issue that faces states will face these winning districts, said Bellwether Education Partners' Andy Smarick. Since the list of winners includes many medium- or even small-sized districts, many may need to hire additional staff or consultants to execute their plans.
"I think this is going to be the biggest issue," he said. "It's not only about hiring enough people but the right people."
 I'm off to the Work Session on Capacity.  Any breaking news I will try to live blog or tweet (@westbrookmel).

Ed Jobs at City Year

City Year, one of my favorite groups that helps SPS students, has two ed-related job openings that I thought I would pass on.

CITY YEAR: CORPORATE AND FOUNDATION DEVELOPMENT MANAGER.  We need an all-star development manager to drive City Year’s corporate and foundation development strategy – someone who is highly detail and goal oriented, has excellent writing skills, super personable and runs towards a challenge.  Job description link is here:

DIPLOMAS NOW: SCHOOL BASED TRANSFORMATION FACILITATOR.  The Diplomas Now Collaborative at Denny Middle School needs a transformation facilitator responsible for effective staff leadership and organizational, instructional, and curricular changes within the school that result in an improved climate and culture.  The STF works closely with City Year, Communities in Schools and Denny MS.  The link to the position is here:

Update on Applying/Nominating for Charter Commission

As promised, here's the info for applying via Speaker Frank Chopp (one of the three people to select the Charter Commission).

It's basically the same as the Lt. Governor's office - write/e-mail them to self-nominate or to nominate someone.  If you are self-nominating, give full details about your background (both personal and professional that might be pertinent) as well as your resume.  If you are nominating someone else, maybe be sure that they want to be nominated so that they can send in their resume if asked for one.

339C Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seattle Schools Capacity Management Work Sesson Recs

The presentation for this Board Work Session tomorrow has been posted.  It's quite interesting.  I note at last night's Capacity meeting for the NE, it was stated that FACMAC would have their recs tomorrow.

It's odd because one page is labeled "Development of Recommended Options" and lists input from FACMAC but clearly FACMAC's recommendations are not part of this presentation because they aren't even out yet.

Okay, wait a minute.  Page 8 DOES have  FACMAC recommendations.  Confusing.  I do not see any link to the complete FACMAC recommendations.

Under Community Feedback:
  • mixed support for repurposing PCP spaces
  • portables?  A surprising amount of support
  • move grade cohorts?  largely not supported
  • maintaining transportation grandfathering?  Mostly supported but I think this is a complete sell job to the Board and public without full information on numbers of students at each school and costs.
For SW and Central Regions, FACMAC recs:
  • provide portables for Schmitz Park
  • open Fairmount Park as neighborhood school (2014-2015)
  • Consider K-5 STEM at Hughes when available.  (I agree with this one.  The private school there has been a good steward of the property but the district needs it back.)
  • Minor boundary change from Hay to Lowell (I see a lot of unhappiness from some Hay parents over this one)
  • Madrona K-8 change to K-5 (yes and finally); boundary adjustment from Leschi and Gatzert (2017-2018)
 For North Region, FACMAC recs:
  • Divide Eckstein geographically into North  Annex at Jane Addams and South Annex at Eckstein (2013-2014) - both 6-8.   I'm okay with this SHORT-TERM but the district needs to be developing another middle school and not two Ecksteins.
  • Relocate Jane Addams to John Marshall for 2013-2014.  I feel sad about this because they will then again get moved.  Two moves for an Option school (and a new one at that) is NOT good.  
  • Develop solutions to accommodate all projected grade 6-8 students in Hamilton building.  A real punt here by FACMAC and I suspect because of disagreements over what to do or what can be done.  APP - don't let anyone shove you around.  If there is to be movement to Lincoln, it needs to be by department or grade level.
  • Develop interim site for Olympic Hills at Cedar Park or other appropriate location.  This use of Cedar Park was brought up by some residents as there is an established arts program in that building and they created a neighborhood park out of the playground.  That is hard to undo but I don't see how the district has any other choice.
Page 10 - Instructional Considerations (I assume this is staff saying this):
- Jane Addams program enhancements for middle school.  I assume this is to beef up their middle school program to look more "comprehensive."  Problem is there is no real proof the district will follow thru AND it's for a program that is now going to move twice over a couple of years.  Seems too little too late.
- 6th Grade Academy at John Marshall.  I have no idea who this is for or what it is to address.

So page 13 starts what I assume are Staff recommendations.  It's a lot of portables and repurposing of classrooms. 

 They are NOT recommending moving the kindergarten from Highland Park or West Seattle Elementary or Schmitz Park to Boren. 

They seem to NOT concur with FACMAC on a boundary change for Hay to Lowell for next year.

They do not concur with FACMAC's rec to change Madrona K-8 to K-5 until Meany reopens.

They do not concur with FACMAC's rec to move Jane Addams K-8 to John Marshall as interim location.

They do recommend moving 6th grade students to John Marshall (if needed).  The entire 6th grade at Hamilton to John Marshall?  Interesting.  OR "alternative scheduling options" - do I see double shifts in Hamilton's future?  They are NOT recommending keeping next year's APP 6th graders at Lincoln.

I see "alternative scheduling options"for Eckstein. Again, double shifts?  They recommend locating Eckstein's 6th grade at John Marshall (if needed).   But NOT dividing up Eckstein into annexes.

For high schools, I had to laugh.  "Reduce number of Open Choice seats in alignment with new program capacity."  Oh c'mon, give this idea up of Open Choice seats.  It was a non-starter (and a joke) from the beginning and has almost no meaning (or hope) now.  Just poke it with a fork and call it done.

I also love under Garfield "fully utilize room availability."  Are they saying that Garfield has empty or rooms that are under-utilized?  I find that hard to believe due to its popularity.

I end by saying I found it difficult to figure out what was a recommendation and what was an option in this presentation.  I foresee a LOT of questions from the Board.

Asperger's Syndrome

Update: great op-ed about this subject.  Thanks to reader, Reader, for the tip.

The Newtown shooter was said to have Asperger's Syndrome which is on the spectrum of autism.  These people are considered the high-functioning end of that spectrum (even as they face very real and distinct challenges.)

One thing to make clear - Asperger's is NOT mental illness.  It is a neurobiological condition.  While some mental illness, like schziophrenia, does have a biological basis, Asperger's is not defined in that category.

After saying that, based on my own personal experience with Asperger's, I suspect the shooter DID have mental health issues in addition to his Asperger's.  It may have been depression, anxiety or bio-polar.

From news reports, it seems clear that he was did have a diagnosis of Asperger's and his high school knew about it.  His mother had to come to the school sometimes if he was having issues.  But all reports were that he kept to himself, that staff watched over him, the other kids were generally nice to him and that there was no evidence he was bullied.

(Indeed, Aspies are far more likely to be bullied or be victims of crime than be violent.  They can get easily frustrated but that doesn't usually play out in acts against others.)

The principal at his high school, being careful in what he said, did mentioned that perhaps after leaving the cocoon of protection in high school, the shooter did not feel as comfortable out in the greater world.  (He had, at some point, attended some college classes.)

Aspies generally do not like loud noises so I was quite surprised to read that his mother taught him to shoot (thinking it would teach him discipline and responsibility).

What is also clear is that we have cut way back on mental health services to the point where many mental health care professionals are almost frantic with worry.  Washington State apparently has one of the worst mental health systems in the country due to lack of funding.  

District Focus for Remaining School Year

From Superintendent Banda's Office:

As we head into the winter break, I want to take a moment to thank you all for your hard work and dedication. In the six months since I’ve been here, I’ve been proud to work alongside you. We have much to be thankful for at Seattle Public Schools – our enrollment is growing, our graduation rate has increased and our students are showing improved academic achievement.

I’m grateful for the time staff has spent helping me get to know this wonderful community, including the many evening meetings with our families, community members, staff and students.

In the New Year, I look forward to meeting with more of you. Our principals, teachers and staff are the heart of Seattle Public Schools, and I am eager to hear your ideas for ensuring that we are meeting the needs of every student.

In light of the tragedy in Connecticut last week, we are strengthening our focus on school safety. Our security team will be meeting with principals in the New Year to review safety plans and ensure each building is equipped to handle potential incidents. As more information is available from Connecticut in the weeks to come, we will review recommendations from the Department of Education and law enforcement. We will work together and follow best practices to improve the safety in our schools
Earlier this month I held an all-day retreat with the members of the Superintendent’s Cabinet, which includes the Assistant Superintendents of Teaching and Learning, Business and Finance, Operations and Human Resources, and the leadership in communications, policy and facilities operations. Setting aside time to step back, plan and think about the big picture is so important for all of us. We used this valuable day to outline our work for the next six months.

We highlighted 12 key items to focus on for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year.

These include:

·         Closing the achievement gap (including a focus on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and English Language Learners)
·         Employee evaluations and professional growth,
·         Implementation of the Common Core standards
·         Implementation of the race and equity policy
·         Capital facilities
·         Budget development
·         Program placement
·         Filling key leadership positions
·         Labor relations
·         A refresh of our Strategic Plan
·         A professional development plan
·         Building relationships with the School Board, families, staff and community.

We have a lot of work to do. But with a dedicated staff, engaged families and a community that cares, I am confident we can continue to move our District forward.  I want to wish you all a wonderful New Year. I hope you enjoy some time off with loved ones during the next two weeks, and I look forward to seeing everyone back at school on Jan. 7.


José Banda

Note:  (And I missed this first read-thru - this is for the remainder of THIS school year.)

Note nothing about Advanced Learning or Special Ed.  Disappointing.  I note two places for labor (evaluations and relations).   

Also, in reading an account of the shootings in Conn., two teachers reported they could not lock their doors.  There's a good first start - make sure every teacher knows how and can lock their classroom door.

Tuesday Open Thread

Boy, it's dark outside.  Maybe that's just the time of year or maybe it's just a dark cloud over our psyches. 

Threads to come:
- capacity meeting at Olympic View last night (don't worry, all was calm and supportive but no real answers)
- BEX IV and Schools First (the levy passage group) - their website says nothing about the capacity issues.  Is this how they plan to sell a $1B package of levies?
- Ed News Roundup

What's on your mind?

End of the Honeymoon, Start of the Plan?

Over at Crosscut, they've written an article about the end of the so-called six month honeymoon since Jose Banda became SPS superintendent. 

As we have all come to realize, Superintendent Banda is a careful person.  Not a big talker, a quieter person, he doesn't do a lot to draw attention to himself.  Some might be anxious or annoyed with the pace of what he is doing but I like to think he knows just what he is doing. 

The article lays out several pressing issues for him:
  • Money and the Legislature (and the levies)
  • Capacity
  • Teachers and testing (and contract renewal)
  • Vacancies in district leadership
  • Academics
There was one early comment that caught my eye:

At this point, the most important question to pose to the superintendent is to articulate his overall vision for the district and specifically how he plans to accomplish it. The achievement gap must be bridged and the graduation rate increased. Control and leadership must be exhibited.
Jon Bridge

"Control and leadership" - that's an interesting duo.  I did pose the question - who is controlling whom?

I note that Mr. Bridge and others up the Seattle food chain have been trying to do just that over the last couple of years (as e-mails have shown).  They have shown themselves willing to use money and power to attempt to control the superintendent and Board with little fear (but maybe that is just the way of wealthy, powerful people).

Charlie, rightly, pointed out that the district has trust issues with both parents and the public.

Here's what my comment was (partial):

I think Superintendent Banda showed leadership recently when he was being pushed on the "need" for a downtown school when he said that he has room in schools surrounding downtown for all students who live in downtown. He said he was worried about finding seats for all the students in the NE region (especially for the middle school students). 

That's leadership. He knows the realities of what he faces and isn't afraid to state them, no matter who is pressuring him. 

I know that a private consulting group has been hired to shape a new (and less lengthy) Strategic Plan and I trust and believe in Banda and the School Board to work on it together. 

I think Cool Papa is right; parents and taxpayers have to trust these people. The record has not been stellar and it is vital to give voters a good reason to trust the district with over $1B of levy money come Feb. 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I've Said It, Now Stats Prove It

Parents, you REALLY are giving to your schools.

From Education Week (bold mine):

It turns out that schools are hotbeds of civic volunteerism, and parents are the lifeblood of that activity. So says a study released recently by the Corporation for National and Community Service, in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship.

The study showed that volunteerism in America is at a five-year high, and parents of school-aged children volunteer at a higher rate than the overall population. These parents contributed more than 2.5 billion hours of their time to volunteer efforts in 2011, most of it to school-based projects.

The rate of parents volunteering in 2011 was 33.7 percent. While this was a nearly negligible increase (0.1 percentage point) from the prior year, it certainly does add up. Some 22.7 million parents volunteered, and if the hours they devoted to their work were paid, it would be valued at $54 billion, the group calculates.

I have no doubt that those stats are valid for Seattle (if not higher).  If no one else has said it lately, thank you Seattle School parents.  

Want to Apply to Be On the Charter Commission?

Here's how via the three possibilities - Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House.  Each office gets to pick three Charter Commission members. 

Governor Gregoire's office is taking the applications via their regular commissions form.  They are then going to pass them along to Governor-elect Inslee's office and he will make the decisions.   I was told both offices have received calls of interest about applying.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen
His office is taking nominations via e-mail and snail mail.   You do not have to fill out an application and you can self-nominate OR any other person or group may nominate you.  (Apparently Stand for Children has been sending in their nominations.)   If you are nominated in any way, their office will give that due consideration. 


Lt. Gov. Brad Owen
Office of the Lt. Governor
PO Box 40400
Olympia, WA 98504-0400 

Speaker Frank Chopp
I am still finding out how to apply via his office and will be able to update this thread with that information by the end of the week.

All three offices know that there are geographic and political issues to selecting Charter Commission members.  As well, I'm sure they will be making considerations based on racial background, gender and finding diversity via association (i.e. business, education, community, etc.) One must be a parent of a Washington public school student (which means in the future that parent could be a charter school parent and I suspect this round will see the first and only parent of a student in a traditional public school.)

You might consider who you would like to see on the Charter Commission and how important it is to ALL taxpayers to strive for some degree of diversity and objectivity on the Commission.  

What To Say Today

Back to school for the last week of the 2012 year. 

What did you tell your children?  What do you hope your child's teacher does (or does not) say to your child?  Should they say anything or is that your job as parent?

What about older students?  Is gun control an issue that high school students should consider in their history or civics classes?

What do you think about what Sandy Hook Elementary had in place (which, sadly, did not work).  Namely, locking all the doors after a certain point and people had to be buzzed into the building.

What about arming every principal?  That was one suggestion I read (although it would make the office and the principal a first target for anyone thinking of attacking a school).  

Here's a good article from the NY Times on this subject.

From SPS communications on talking with your children.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Seattle Schools for the Week of Dec. 17-23

Monday, December 17th
Capacity Management meeting for the NE area from 6:30-8 p.m. at Olympic Hills cafeteria, 13018 20th Avenue

Tuesday, December 18th
Audit&Finance Quarterly Audit Meeting from 4-7 p.m.  Agenda.  Much of this is the higher-level work of this committee - internal audit, external audit, risk management.  The last hour of this committee is just for committee members to discuss labor negotiations.

Superintendent Meeting with Pacific Islander Community from 6-8 p.m. at RBHS

Wednesday, December 19th
Enrollment Services close at noon.

Board Work Session on International Education/Wallace Grant update from 4-5:30 p.m.  (The Wallace Grant is an arts grant that the district worked very hard to get.  I believe it's in its second year.  I'll check but I think it was a planning grant and not an implemented one.)  Here's what we had at the blog in April 2012 when this grant was first announced:

Seattle Public Schools was recently awarded a $1 million grant from New York-based Wallace Foundation to engage the community and develop and multi-year plan for introducing more arts instruction into the classroom. The Foundation's Arts Learning Initiative planning grant, which runs from July 2011 through January 2013, will support development of a comprehensive K-12 arts education plan aimed at increasing quality arts learning opportunities for all students.

Board Work Session on Capacity Management and NSAP/Transition from 6-7:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 20th
Operations Committee Meeting from 4-6 p.m.  Agenda 
The agenda includes transportation service standards for 2013-2014 and a presentation from Tracy Libros on the capacity management and NSAP/transition for 2013-2014 (so, if you can't make the work session, you could hear about it here).  Pegi McEvoy will also be speaking on BEX IV and capacity management.

We are getting very close to the end of any discussion over BEX IV and capacity management.  I note that I still haven't heard about the fate of Pinehurst.  We've had plenty of discussion here over Jane Addams and where it might land (and when) but nothing on Pinehurst.

What would you have to say to the superintendent?

I don't make a habit of asking the staff to do things so much as asking them for information. That's because they don't work for me and they aren't accountable to me. I don't hesitate to offer suggestions for action to the Board because they are accountable to the public and they are supposed to represent the public.

So if I had the opportunity to speak with the superintendent, I wouldn't so much have suggestions for him as questions. They are big questions and perhaps some of them will be answered in the Strategic Plan. Perhaps not. The previous Strategic Plan was a management plan more than an academic plan. Is that what it's supposed to be? The new Strategic Plan is shaping up to be more of an academic plan.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oddities in BEX IV

Perusing the BEX IV presentation and then what was presented to the Mayor's Educational Leadership Team yesterday, I see some things that I don't understand.

  • BTA has been about major maintenance like roofs and yet there are five roofs to be replaced under BEX IV.  That is troubling because BEX is about renovations and yet there are roofs and other "major preventative maintenance" under BEX IV.  What is really troubling is the "major preventative maintenance" at $18M has no list of projects.  Basically, it looks like a fund for something.  
  • Those five schools with roof replacements scheduled are Eckstein, Franklin, Gatewood, Laurelhurst and Whitman.  However, checking the BTA work from previous years shows that Laurelhurst received a new roof in 2002, Whitman in 2006, and Eckstein in 2010.  This is district data at their website.  How could this be wrong?  Or, how could these almost new roofs need replacement?
  • I note - just as an observation - that Ingraham keeps its standing as the only school to appear on every single BTA and BEX list.  This time it's for earthquake safety improvements which you think might have been done under BEX III.  
  • I also note that after the lack of security cameras at Roosevelt even after its renovation, that BEX IV has security camera systems listed for installation at 19 schools.  Naturally, I think this is good but again, I also think this comes under BTA and not BEX.  
  • Also there is $3M in BEX IV for academics for STEM and IB.  Again, this is passing off operating costs into capital areas.   Meaning, we have created programs that cannot be paid for out of operating costs.  
I will be asking BEX staff about these issues and letting the Board know of these anomalies.