Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Open Thread

Seattle edges out Portland as the "most-liked US city" in a national poll.  Yay for us.

Community Meeting with Director Patu on Saturday from 10-noon at Cafe Vita.

Great youth film festival going on, NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth).  

NFFTY occurs each spring in Seattle, Washington and is the premier showcase of the best young directors 22 and younger from around the world. The films of NFFTY represent the voice of this generation, covering all topics and genres, from compelling and provocative, to hilarious and uplifting. NFFTY has the perfect film for a fan of any age.

UW professors believe it's possible we could actually be living in a computer simulation.  Ponder that over the weekend.

Forgot to note that Olympic View Elementary is having a plant sale today and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday) from 9 am to 7 pm.  They're on 5th Ave NE and NE 95th (right on the way up to Northgate if you are headed that way this weekend).  

What's on your mind?


mirmac1 said...

Strategic Plan handouts

What is the difference between "academic success" and "academic assurances"? A lot, I dare say. And I don't think the board grasps that yet.

Maureen said...

Hey, I don't know if you or Blogger made the change, but I am really happy that the numbers are gone in the word verification box. I had a terrible time reading them (old eyes?!). The letters are much easier to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Melissa- Were you able to follow up with what will happen to the SPS Arts plan now that they will not get funding from Wallace? I just learned about the work of Dallas' Thriving Mind initiative - over the last 15 years they have been able to bring arts to every child through coordinated school-day, summer school and after school programs. This is where Seattle should be. It would be so sad if 15 years from now that big, shiny $1million plan is still sitting on a shelf.


not getting it said...


West Seattle Blog is posting that Genesee Hill will open January 2016. Is there any precedent for opening a school mid-year? How does this work? Wouldn't it be crazy expensive, and more cost effective just to wait until September 2016?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Art Parent, Carri Campbell (head of Arts for SPS) and I have been planning to sit down and talk. I promise to update you once we get that done. I'd also like to hear from parents about the arts experience at your school (what type, who pays, who participates, etc.).

Not getting it, mid-year? That does seem odd. No, I do not recollect any school opening mid-year.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh wait, I see. The building won't be ready to open Sep 2015 so the kids will be at the old Schmitz Park bldg and then move in Jan 2016 when the new building at Genesee Hill is ready.

Now, will all the same kids go to that school since boundary changes are coming? Good question.

Maureen said...

It sounds like Genesee Hill will just be the new, bigger site for Schmitz Park. So the whole community will just be packed up and moved. That seems fairly reasonable (albeit a huge headache for the staff!). Not sure why it would be less expensive to do it in August?

If I were them, I would skip winter MAP testing and instead have all the kids help pack up in December. Then each kid could take a box home over break and bring it back in January. :D

Anonymous said...

@ Mirmac: The district is not promising academic success. It is promising to provide equitable opportunity for high quality baseline academics. That is where the staff has landed and that is all they will commit to. It's a lot. It has not happened in the history of the district.

The board does understand this.

You and others in town may not agree with this course, but frankly, I don't think the staff or the board much cares. Downtown is all about: Get the Basics Right or Bust.

Everyone has waited for what the superintendent's cabinet would rally around for priorities. Here it is.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"Opportunity"? Well, I would agree that "academic success" is a tough guarantee but, by the same measure, I don't think "equitable opportunity" is the same thing as "academic assurances." Opportunity seems to put the onus on parents/students and assurances seems to put that on the district (where it belongs).

Also, as I reported, at the Work Session around framework for equity, Board members seemed divided over doing the basics versus more innovation. I would agree to err to the basics/foundation.

I am just saddened that it's 2013 and our district still hasn't got that down pat.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa

I agree that it is sad that it is 2013 and here we are. Do not get bogged down by "assurance" and "opportunity" semantics. They are married. SPS is attempting for the first time ever, and admittedly not without bumps, that all areas of the city will have the educational basics needed for students to grow. Reading, writing, math, art, movement, science, accelerated learning opportunites, Special Education services.The basics are not equitably offered now. How can outcomes be expected to get better when there isn't a starting line?

It isn't perfect but it is something. Something substantial. And it is not focused on tearing down the majority of SPS employees who try very hard to serve the city's children. That's a refreshing change of emphasis too.


Anonymous said...

All I see is doom for this academic assurance plan. Not because it is bad. Because it will be drowned in criticism.

It is simple: the uber-voices will not stand for this plan.

There is a whole group of parents, largely centered in the north end who are never going to go for this. Because it doesn't put their schools first. These schools mostly have "the basics", with perhaps advanced learning or special education lacking. But this plan focuses staff efforts and money not in these communities. It isn't going to fly with the uber-achievement set.

Likewise there are some very strident voices on this blog (not the owners of the blog) and out in the community that are hairtrigger with their criticisms as well as loathe to support any downtown management. Because the academic assurance priorities of the newest crop of downtown management are not the priorities of the uber-critics, and because they are not capable of constructive instead of destructive criticism, they will tear this focus apart. Having gotten rid of the last superintendent, and the interim superintendent, it will now be time to tear this one down.

And then there is the Alliance which clearly sees itself as an education influence in town and this emphasis does not seem in line with its interests. If it doesn't work for the uber-important, it isn't going to fly.

That makes 3 strikes you are out in this uber-bad Mariners baseball season.

Do I expect the new direction to collapse yet again under these pressures? Honestly, yes I do.


Older + Wiser

Anonymous said...

"Bingo" to the above comment.


mirmac1 said...

Older + Wiser,

Yes, I am uber-depressed. After >$10M spent on cool desktop dashboards and now new investments in Teachscape to "calibrate" evaluations tools, are our children doing any better? What use is a performance management system if we have no real expectations for performance?

Our past superintendents are responsible for the mediocrity of change we've seen - except in the area of even more disparity between the haves and have-nots. No, I don't feel obligated to support change for change's sake, particularly when it essentially says "here, have some P.E. and art. Knock yerself out. Don't say we never gave ya nothin"

I've observed that Federal Way Public Schools espouses Equity and Academic Success: intensive support for HS-ers to prepare them for college, counseling, maybe even program evaluation and scaling up effective programs.

What do we get? And where? $10M in PD, primarily for the Superintendent Leadership Initiative, career ladder positions (to appease A4E), teaching the CCSS, and more PG&E. This instead of effective math curriculum, social/emotional support and a longer school day.

Certainly, I may employ histrionics (to limited effect). I simply want to get the juices flowing and inform those most affected (and I'm not just saying the haves.) That way we may have some control over our own destiny.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well kids, there is one hope left and his name is Jose Banda.

NOW would be the time to step out of the shadows and firmly put his foot down.

Damn the torpedoes, the Alliance and anyone else.

It's funny because the late Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was fond of saying how there were "no systems" in SPS when she came and she did a lot of smoke and mirrors and guess what? No real systems (at least not if you listen to the discussion at the Work Sessions).

Banda can put his stamp on the district and this city if he has the political courage. He needs backing from parents to do that.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa and Older + Wiser and Mirmac

Banda has stepped out of the shadows. He is not flashy, so he is not announcing himself. But do not mistake a quiet and calm personality with a lack of movement or a lack of resolve. He has almost finished his cabinet hires. He has started review of hot potato topics like MAP and racial disproportionality and math. He is finishing up a strategic plan update. He engages respectfully with the board and staff and teachers and outside partners and reporters and blog owners.

Now he is telling the city how he will make decisions: Based on academic assurances-opportunities as defined by this month's work session.

Banda knows he will receive criticism. Prioritizing always means some people end up at the back of the line of urgent fixes. In addition, this is a different priority than in the recent past, and it is just being introduced. It will need additional work to hone the concept.

He respects criticism from those who work for the best for all children in this district. He deals with criticism from those interested in only their own family or school. He negotiates through criticism with district partners. And he simply dismisses criticism from the perpetually disgruntled. He and his cabinet, who do not have an ounce of spare time given the lack of funding and resources in this district, pay no heed to the online, written and legal haranguing from that small group of pot-stirrers. He might treat those persons politely, but that does not mean he values the support of those persons, nor does he need it. The cabinet has written those names off and moved on.

Again, do not mistake a quiet man with one who isn't astute. Do not mistake a quiet man with someone who is afraid. Do not mistake him with previous leaders who were cowed by sharp tongues and sharper elbows inside JSCEE and outside in the public realm. He doesn't seem to work that way, thankfully. And he is resolute that he is in this position for the long haul.

I am encouraged by Banda's work and style this first year. I don't agree with some of his decisions, but I respect that he has analyzed them and has made his answer clear. He is political ---- every superintendent has to be ---- but he seems to keep politics to a minimum.

I do not think his academic assurance priorities will be derailed as easily as some think. No one who has watched this district can argue that it offers equitable opportunities to all students. This first step must happen before the next definition of success is rolled out as a district-wide measure. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson wanted to jump right into Excellence for All. It was not a realistic expectation without the building blocks being put in place. Banda's basics make sense to me and they are defensible.


Anonymous said...

@Inside, if what you say about Supt. Banda and his cabinet is true, then there's hope.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Inside, thanks for that.

I have been a Banda supporter from the beginning. I wanted him to "go slow" and get the lay of the land. I understand his quiet way.

We need to support him. But we need to see that resolve manifest itself in public.

Anonymous said...


Ease up a little. You are making the Supt sound like Marlboro Man and you sound like a paid publicist. Legitimate questions can and should be raised about leadership and coordination. These questions can't be dismissed with assurances that really all is well behind the scenes.


Unknown said...

You and others in town may not agree with this course, but frankly, I don't think the staff or the board much cares. Downtown is all about: Get the Basics Right or Bust.

Glyn Willmoth

Unknown said...

There is a whole group of parents, largely centered in the north end who are never going to go for this. Because it doesn't put their schools first. These schools mostly have "the basics", with perhaps advanced learning or special education lacking. But this plan focuses staff efforts and money not in these communities. It isn't going to fly with the uber-achievement set.

Glyn Willmoth

Linh-Co said...

Open Invitation for 4th Grade MSP Preparation
Broadview Library - Corner of 127th and Greenwood
Saturday, April 27th - 10:45-12:30

This will be an informational presentation 4th grade Math MSP. Math testing for grades 3-8 is May 3rd or May 9th.

All parents who are interested in knowing how to help his/her child on this test are invited. Fourth grade Math MSP (WA Measurements of Student Progress) scores are used for all Seattle 6th grade middle school Advanced Math placement.

Topics for discussions include:

Testing format and and scoring
Cut scores for passing and advanced Level 4
Discussions of Grade 4 areas of emphasis and content to be tested
Sample test and pre-released 2008 test items
Followed by Q&A. Please RSVP to rickbmail@yahoo.com so I can make enough copies of Sample Test and handouts. ($3 donation for Sample Test Packet)

Anonymous said...

I thought the Winter MAP was the deciding factor in math placement for 6th grade. 4th grade MSP? Is that because 5th grade MSP results aren't available until Fall?

a reader

mirmac1 said...

Inside, you are wrong about Banda not listening to those of us "outside". I've seen at least two proposals I lobbied for, get action. Unfortunately, I see insularity forming around him. Melissa is right, Banda himself can guarantee his own success, but not if his experience and philosophy is filtered through jargon and bureaucracy.

John said...

@mirmac - Maybe your proposals were reasonable and reasonably presented. I didn't read Insider's comments to mean all "outsiders" are excluded, just those who won't bring anything constructive to the table. Every politician/public servant has to make a list of, well, crackpots they hear from. I imagine some of the more strident NE activists made that list this year. The ones that can't figure out why they don't get what they want.

I hope Insider's remarks are accurate. I'm a Banda fan (so far), and he's got a tough job. He's hard to get a read on, which can be frustrating, but let's judge him by his actions.

mirmac1 said...

Thanks John. I've been told by some district staff that they appreciate that I do not ask for anything for my particular child. There are many like us.

No matter. Numerous parents outside the inner circle have provided facts and data, and have found themselves shut down because some "inside the beltway" person said "uh, I deny that. That's wrong". End of story.

We need a board that demands proof that what some staff say and present is true: you know, all that data and those systems they espouse.

As I have advised special ed parents, if there are major changes proposed to special education delivery, then insist SPS administration do what any private industry would do, perform a cost/benefit analysis, prepare an implementation plan, obtain buy-in from real stakeholders, make someone responsible and accountable, and then execute it professionally. Don't just chuck it out to the buildings, then avoid blame, change jobs, and leave the district when it doesn't pan out.