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?


mirmac1 said…
The A4E Banda Briefing Book has some interesting tidbits. For example: An overnight School Board retreat with all 7 board members, A4E and district senior staff. I somehow missed that one and don't recall that this open public meeting was ever announced....

And how many of you have heard of the PPPE? This is the Philanthropic Partnership for public Education, formed in 2007 as a "funders' collaborative to "jump-start" systemic improvements at SPS like:

MGJ's Strategic Plan;
Her performance management system (how's that working?);
A comprehensive leadership development program;
The NCTQ analysis of 5 yrs of CBAs;
Junket to Denver;
The current holy grail of CBAs;
Transformation of HR (zzz);
...I'm sure more wonderful things that lead to elimination of the achievement gap and more kids going to college, right?
Anonymous said…
Some parents are our school were dismayed by teachers discussing Sandy Hook with elementary-aged kids – on Friday and on Monday. The note home from Banda was unsealed/unstapled and read by other kids on the school bus ride home, etc, without any further explanation. Of course this is an unprecedented event, but some parents who wished to shield their young kids from the events didn’t get a chance.

I’m curious if our school is the norm – did others receive the Banda note in this way? Did your teachers or building leadership send notes/emails/etc regarding what would be discussed or not, and how? We received the Banda letter, no follow up from teachers, principal, or (part time) counselor as of yet.

Diane, I know that Banda likely sent something to staff. I know that every principal and school staff likely went their own direction (although probably erred on the saying less side).

My point is that to say nothing to your children leaves them open to what other children (and older children who are more likely to talk) to say things to them.

I would suggest telling younger students what happened in the briefest manner but mostly telling them to NOT listen to other kids at school but come straight to you if they are worried.
Benjamin Leis said…
I was at the meeting last night at Olympic hills and been found myself increasingly distressed as it progressed. After mulling things over here's all the process failures I saw.

1. The district has continually managed capacity in a opaque reactive crisis mode and there was no change last night. Enrollment is rising by 1000 kids a year and yet we're only planning one year out in December/January. I fully anticipate going to yet another of these meetings in another year to deal with the capacity constraints in 2013-14 once again at the last moment. Here's a great chance to get a little ahead of the curve and plan 2 or perhaps 3 years at once.

2. A failure to enumerate constraints. The district staff has more information that the parents which they never share until the decisions are set so instead parents are left to speculate and worry. The district should frame the decision i.e. here are 2 or 3 possibly feasible alternatives for next year and here are the projected costs of each and the pro/cons that we know about. Not doing so, creates lots of angst and sets an environment where parents are pitted against each. No one has any facts to reach a consensus that's best for the entire quadrant with so little framework.

3. The overly opaque process means these sessions have very little impact anyway and function mostly as a venting session. The staff is going to come out with its recommendation anyway in March and typically ignores these comments. In fact because they are structured in a way that precludes consensus they can then claim there was none and do whatever they want (they'll find a group of parents that supported any variant choose)

4. The overall structure, having each community speak of its needs in a vacuum was guaranteed to encourage local concerns over the whole and encourage pitting communities against each other. We need discussions that are more constructive. I'm probably in the minority but I find the parading of children's testimony at these outings to be particularly manipulative. Every child's fears about change are poignant but they add little substance to the discussion and instead just ratchet up the emotions.

Anonymous said…
At our school the third graders were told, but the first graders were not(don't have a second grader, so don't know which side of the line they were on). This comports with the plethora of child development stuff I read when I was trying to figure out what to do- above 7, the overwhelming likelihood is that they are going to hear about it somehow, better to manage that in a controlled setting (classroom or home). 6-7, it depends.

It may be that the teacher heard some of the kids talking and was trying to head off the gossip mill. I know when bin Laden was assassinated one of our teachers had to talk to the class because the rumors had gotten out of control, and I'd want this headed off even sooner than that.

Anonymous said…
Thanks, Melissa
I did tell my kids because I didn't want them to hear it on the playground, but I empathize with others at our school who had wanted to shield their kids, particularity with younger elementary kids.

I was wondering more of what happened building-specific elsewhere. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I hoped for follow up/leadership from my teachers and principal on what they planned to discuss, in what manner it would be brought up (open discussion, or only if they heard of playground talk, etc) and I'm curious how other schools have handled communication.

Eric B said…
@Ben: The district is most definitely planning more than one year out. That topic (and other means of building trust with the community) have been discussed on several occasions at FACMAC meetings.

I'm not sure why that hasn't been communicated better, but it may be that the next-year issues are big enough that there isn't time to cover the later on work in later meetings.
Patrick said…
I was at the Olympic Hills meeting too, and I agree with most of what Ben said.

Is it really impossible for the District to project enrollments more than a year or two in advance? If not, how we know if the enrollment increases are about to end? Maybe the district should never lease former schools for more than a three years at a time.

We need better intermediate and long-term planning, not short-term reactions. Kids should not be wondering where they're going to be going to school nine months from now.

I agree, I'd like to see several of the best options from the District, with their pros and cons. The information provided to and by FACMAC should be on the web site in an organized way.

Can there really be no buildable 10-acre sites in NE Seattle? How long does eminent domain take? It just seems like such a waste to tear down Pinehurst, in addition to stretching out the time until JA K-8 can be moved there.

Once leased out former schools are landmarked and no longer usable for schools in the future, maybe the District should sell them and use the land to buy other school sites. (Not use the money to fill current-year spending needs.)

The District is dooming option schools by moving them around so much. Option schools have to be attractive in order to succeed. A school that's about to be moved twice, or to lose its site and move who knows where is no longer attractive, no matter how good the program, principal, and staff are.

It's been said before but bears repeating that the District can either have guaranteed neighborhood assignment schools or schools that are "efficient" and 95% full, but not both. In the long run, either the guarantee will have to be weakened, or we'll have to add more capacity so schools are move like 85% full.
Unknown said…
Crosscut tweeted this just now "Superintendent Jose Banda is joining us for lunch today. He says he hopes to set up a school downtown. Perhaps in a high-rise."
Has anyone heard him say anything like this before?
No, Mary and I am QUITE surprised because as I said in my thread about the Crosscut article, this not what he said.

Apparently, the downtown voices have gotten to him.

Ben, I think your perspective is quite accurate.

FACMAC is to release their recs tomorrow at the Board Work Session.
Unknown said…
Governor Snyder has just vetoed the bill that was passed by both houses of the Michigan legislature that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons into schools and churches. This happened despite that fact that Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst ed reform group boldly took no stand on that issue. Surprisingly or not, it was able to muster the energy to engage in all kinds of anti-union school privatization activity in Michigan . StudentsFirst is funded by hedge fund managers, investors and CEO's with right-wing agendas. The group should be called "Millionaires First, Students Last" as far as I am concerned.
Jan said…
If they can find a way to obtain and equip a space downtown -- without using BEX money (or any other district money currently "slotted" for use for more critical construction/renovation), I have no problem with it (at least not until Melissa tells me why what seems "cost neutral" to me isn't).

Here are my thoughts:
My understanding is that downtown kids currently end up at Hay -- or other QA schools, all of which are crowded or getting there; so it seems to me that capacity will continue to be relevant for some time. (I understand that there is some capacity at Lowell now that a bad combination of neighborhood assignment kids and APP growth have squeezed the old APP program out -- but I suspect that they can come up with program solutions that will fill that building.) So the issue isn't that we couldn't use the space. The issue is that a downtown school is way down on the priority list, compared with the other things BEX IV is slated for.

There is frankly no reason whatsoever that the downtown crowd cannot come up with enough money to buy (or lease) space for 5 years -- AND fully equip it (desks, books, smartboards, etc.) Presumably, they will want it to be a "neighborhood assignment" school -- so kids of downtown residents can actually attend it. After that, as long as they want to fundraise for it, I have no problem with their asking the District to make it whatever kind of program they want -- STEM, immersion, Montessori).

I just don't want it to get in the way of the list of critical projects that are being funded with BEX IV. It might be useful for someone to daylight the history of the diverted funds that went into the South Shore school to make Stuart Sloan's group happy -- and the resulting problems that resulted.
There is room at Madrona K-8 and at Lowell. TT Minor is closed but could be reopened. That many of the downtown parents want QA or Hay is not really the district's problem.

So, as the Superintendent has said, there is room for every single downtown student RIGHT NOW. He cannot say that for every single NE student.

So I say he needs to be concerned with those who don't have a place than those who do (but it's not exactly what they want).

I am totally with you Jan on the downtown businesses coming up with the space and either donating it or giving the district a REALLY low-cost lease. Roll it out, year by year and by BEX V, then we can all talk.

What is weird is that I sometimes hear downtown folks talk about an option school which would negate the idea of a school for "downtown" as then anyone could attend it.

So they either want a neighborhood school or just a school. Either way, the district really should focus the money and the effort at our CURRENT schools.

A downtown school is not and should not be a priority for anyone working on capacity or facilities issues.

I have daylighted the whole issue of South Shore. I can do it again. I can show you the e-mail where the New School Foundation was demurring about renewing with the district but the minute they go onto BEX, the agreement was signed.

And as for the resulting problems - go ask Cooper (and all of north West Seattle) and go ask AAA (oh wait, they don't exist anymore).

That $5M in BEX IV for "planning" for a downtown school, sounds like a lot,right? Well, sure because it isn't for "planning". It's a fund so that IF a downtown company finds the room, the district has money to fix the space up.

I stand by my belief that there are on-going discussions and plans for a downtown school for 2013-2014 but they will not be announced until AFTER the levy election.
Mike said…
Any thoughts on the outgoing Governor's plan on shifting bus costs to the DOT budget?

NEDad, I had missed that. That would take someone who knows more than I do about transportation to say what it means and its effects on SPS. Thanks for the heads up.
OU said…
Hoping teachers are coping
Not what they signed up for
The kids are more resilient
What they want to know
Why won't we take action?
Are we scared? Lazy? Too busy?
mirmac1 said…
Want to see a new school done bad, look at K-5 STEM. I know the parents will jump to its defense, but I've been to enough meetings where they have complained (LOUDLY) of broken promises. So if we, as a district, are ready to fix the busted, underfunded, non-urgent downtown school, then go right ahead - but right your own check!
Anonymous said…

work session presentation is posted.
dan dempsey said…
Gregoire's budget plan would send another $1 billion to schools

Gov. Gregoire offered her blueprint for state spending during the next two years, providing her successor a plan that she says allows him to keep campaign promises.

Yet starting next month, Inslee has to find a way to make a substantial down payment on state Supreme Court demands for increased education funding, as well as to close a big budget shortfall, at a time when the state economy is still struggling.

Gregoire staked out a path she contends would solve Inslee's dilemma.

mirmac1 said…
Times reports SPS pays out $250K in a settlement with Darrel Cloud, the young man who killed his abuser, Neal Summers at Whitman in '94.

Unknown said…
That article is from 2005. I think it is trending on the Seattle Times because it was mentioned in a current article about school-related shootings in Washington state.
mirmac1 said…
Wow, you're right Mary! I didn't even look at the date. I recall just recently hearing talk of a 250K insurance payout/SPS money swap so assumed this was the reason.

Geez, wonder what else they'll scrape from the archives. They must've roped me with their "suggested links" at the bottom of each story.
Crosscut deletes comments said…
This article just came through on Crosscut's facebook feed. I find it interesting the comments have been removed. I also find it interesting if you google this article, the comments are removed.

Comments remain when clicking on the Seattle Public School blog site.

Censorship? Please consider reposting your comments.
Crosscut censors said…
I was referring to the Crosscut article written by Alison Krupnick about Banda being on the job for six months.
Unknown said…
Crosscut Censors,

I think you are confusing two different Crosscut articles by the same author about Jose Banda that appeared two days apart. So that is confusing. The author wrote one before she met him and another after he had a meeting with Crosscut writers and editors.

But the one thing that probably is either a misquote or misleading is the claim that Supt. Banda is meeting with Special Ed advocates on a weekly basis. I know he met once with a joint meeting of Sp Ed PTSA and SEAAC, and then met with an ad hoc group of Special Ed interests, but I don't know that anything more than that has occurred in the 6 months he has been here. Surely he hasn't been meeting weekly with Sp Ed groups that I don't know about?
mirmac1 said…
Mary, he meets once a month with reps from SpEd PTSA and SEAAC/ICS Task Force. Not even close to weekly...
Jan said…
I concur with your observation of the dark, Melissa. It never ceases to surprise me, the last 2 or 3 weeks before the winter solstice, how long it is dark each day (and how weak the light is when it is NOT dark -- especially if it is cloudy or raining -- which is generally is). Makes me totally "get" all those mid-winter light ceremonies the world over -- and it makes me love the city holiday lights, the Christmas tree lights, etc. And it makes me wonder how well I would have coped had I lived here "pre-electricity."
Anonymous said…
I t depends how far pre electricity one goes. I imagine life here 450 years ago was pretty vibrant for all species.

Anonymous said…
The dark and gloomy nights are the very reason I keep my Christmas lights on ALL of December and January not only for my enjoyment, but for other light deprived people who happen to pass by.


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