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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Live Blogging the School Board

 UPDATE:  the Green Resolution passed, 6-1.  I believe there were some tweaks but it survived mostly intact.  Director Martin-Morris was the odd man out, saying that while he supported the idea, it was a slippery slope and they should go about it another way.  Then he pulled back from the microphone without saying what way that might be.  Not so helpful. 

Someone asked if anyone addressed Charlie's questions on Advanced Learning.  I listened to the Board comments but heard nothing on the subject. Advanced Learning - the program that is the Rodney Dangerfield of the district.

End of update.

Well, this is a pleasant surprise.  Instead of the Green Resolution being attacked (as I feared it might), it instead getting support from all environmental corners.  City Councilman Richard Conlin sent a staffer to lend his support.  Peter Steinbrueck came to offer his support (he's an architect).  Cascadia Green Building and the Nature Conservancy also sent support.

Now we have seven adorable students from Bailey-Gatzert's community service group all calling for the Green Resolution to be passed.  (What, no puppies?)

Next up, Charlie.

 He let them know that in the Board minutes from the May 1st meeting re: a motion about Advanced Learning that President Smith-Blum asked Shauna Heath if she would have presentation ready for tonight's meeting and Ms. Heath said she would.  No presentation, though.  What is this new overall vision for Advanced Learning?  He said if staff was creating one, it is in secret because no one else has been asked about it or involved.  He stated that was in opposition to the district's stated goals, one of which is transparency.  He said he is waiting to hear what is said during Board comments.  He suggested that the staff throw out any work done and start over.

Cecilia McCormick gave a nice pat on the back to the new Director of Special Ed.  But she also forcefully pointed out the poor judgment in exposing the names of the parent and student receiving a settlement from the district over Special Ed services.  She is right; there was no real reason for it and you have to wonder if, like she points out, it was done to scare other Sped parents.

Sarah Sense-Wilson, a Native American leader in Seattle, also spoke forcefully in support of the Native American program.  She points out that no one in her community was asked about the merge with Middle College or the move to Northgate Mall (where MC is located).

Several speakers talked about students who will not graduate under the new state requirements to pass the HSPE or EOC tests.  (I did hear that the test results did not come back until October and left some schools scrambling.  As well, there were not enough spots for students who needed to take the EOC classes.)  The district can allow these students to walk with their classmates this June - it is not an OSPI requirement that they don't.

Board Comments
Peaslee - thanks to everyone, feels the anger/pain of Native American community, needs members for advisory committee for future of Native American program, she expressed concern over the students who may not graduate and believes students should be allowed to walk with their classes with a provisional/temporary diploma.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Waiting on pins and needles for the official 2013-2014 school calendar.

Tic tic tic

Anonymous said...

Thank you Charlie!

-worried about AL

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

I was quite pleased that the Native American rally dwarfed the orchestrated LEV/OSC/whatever tailgater.

It pains me that board members felt compelled to say a little something to appease the LEVites, but had no apparent outrage regarding lawbreaking and bullying of a special education student who was mistreated to the tune of $500K.

(Don't get me wrong. Special education families know better than most of the pernicious disproportionate application of punitive discipline.)

I have sinced learned that, as suspected, Linda Shaw at the Times is on top of that settlement story. Oh! She DID say she wouldn't name names. Only because parents were outraged at the violation of FERPA and the unconscionable practice in Legal. There were commonplace steps that could have been taken to protect this family. But then Harmon/DeBell, and their tool English, would not have gotten full advantage of this opportunity to blame special ed all the woes in the world...

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/author/lshaw/

Peter Maier, former Seattle School Board member, appointed to State Board of Education

-was there

Carol Simmons said...

Former State Senator Claudia Kaufman spoke about the continued destruction of Native American programs in Seattle Public Schools The Rally to save the Indian Heritage School program before the Board meeting began was well attended and extremely impressive. There were many speakers, drummers and dancers who participated. The Murals at Wilson Pacific must be saved. The Indian Heritage program deserves a respectful site not housed at a shopping mall.

Anonymous said...

What people don't seem to realize is half of the Indian Heritage school is already at Middle College at Northgate Mall. There is one teacher who is using online courses for the remaining students at Wilson Pacific. The rest of them are already at the Middle College along with their Native American teachers. The district does need to do more to save the murals and the district does need to do more to support Indian Heritage but keeping them at the falling apart Wilson Pacific has already encouraged most to move to Northgate. And while the Middle College is in Northgate Mall, they have a nice facility there that is no worse than the what the Center School has at the Seattle Center. It isn't like the school is set up in the foodcourt.

HP

David said...

For anyone who was there, did the Board respond to Charlie's questions at all? I am curious to know what their reaction was.

Ed said...

And the Free and Reduced students can get an orange julius for nutrition instead of like, food.

Sweet!

mirmac1 said...

OSPI came down on SPS for having special education transition students meet at Northgate. Yes, in the food court. They had been kicked out of Ballard, no space was prepared for them at Lincoln, and OSPI said that is WRONG.

Anonymous said...

OSPI is always having to come down on the SSD. Then the SSD admin. comes down on frontline staffers, many of whom are already dancing as fast as they (we) can. Admin. continually dumps more on the staff working with the kids yet offers NO relief whatsoever to accommodate the increasing demands (paperwork, a faulty IEPO system that has NOT lived up to it's promises, endless Corrective Actions with no time to make the corrections... ) It's all been said before in this blog and the same things will continue to be issues until school based staff get the support, time and tools they (we) need to do our job.

Sped Staffer

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sped Staffer, since you weighed in (and it's a great opportunity to ask), what would help?

What would help Sped Ed students the most right now (from your viewpoint)?

What supports do schools need that they are currently not receiving?

What would help the frontline district staff people?

mirmac1 said...

Believe it or not, I am on your side Sped Staffer. We're fighting the continual attempts by certain JSCEE interests to reduce sped budgets. We're fighting for more opportunities for collaboration and full participation of special educators in building teams. We're fighting for less gatekeeping and more fidelity with IEP implementation. We're fighting to make principals accountable to families and students. We'd love for the change to be home-grown, rather than externally imposed by OSPI.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything that non-Sped families can do to support Sped improvements? It's clear there are problems galore, but without personal experience or detailed knowledge of the issues, it's hard to know how to help...or if efforts would have any impact in the first place.

I'm sure there are many others here who would gladly take action in support of Sped, so please feel free to call attention to any unique opportunities that may arise to engage the wider SPS population. And details on what we should ask for are helpful! :)

MEM

Anonymous said...

The real issue though is the persistent failure of general educators to embrace, or even acknowledge their responsibility to educate ALL students. So long as they are continued to be allowed to punt on students with disabilities, special ed will be an overburdened dumping ground. This is a matter if will as much as resources. When you cut funds, the students remain and more likely than not, will still be in cheap general ed.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

If there were raised expectations of building administrators to use SPED funds appropriately in the first place, to advocate for training and development where it is needed, and to supervise appropriately, you frontline staffers wouldn't have so much difficulty. Instead of blaming your bosses, start reporting principals who refuse to support your work. In the end, though, it is ALWAYS parents who take the blame. The system ALWAYS turns on the parent.

Not all frontline staffers are problem solvers either. That IS a central office problem in need of a solution.

reader

Anonymous said...

Melissa, didn't see anything yet about this story

http://www.npr.org/2013/05/15/184195877/l-a-schools-throw-out-suspensions-for-willful-defiance

"School suspensions are a big issue in California. Last year, schools handed out 700,000 of them. But the Los Angeles Unified School District took a step to change that this week when it voted to ban suspending students deemed “willfully defiant."

--Curious

mirmac1 said...

Thanks for that Curious. The new Exec Dir of Special Education mentioned the LAUSD with respect to disproportionate discipline of sped students.

Of course it is important to know that LAUSD has been operating under a Special Master for years, appointed by the Federal court.

Anonymous said...

So we continue to wait on the stupid calendar for next year? What the heck?

DISTRICT: School Board postpones vote on tentative 2013-14 school year calendar

The School Board at its May 15 meeting postponed voting on a tentative calendar for the 2013-14 school year. Board members had questions about state waivers for Professional Development Days and more research is being conducted. A School Board meeting to vote on the calendar will be determined at a later date. The Representative Assembly of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) approved the tentative 2013-14 calendar at its meeting on May 13. The calendar is subject to negotiations and is not final until it is approved by both the School Board and the SEA. The final 2013-14 school calendar will be posted on the District website and a news release will be sent out to families, staff, media and the community as soon as it receives final approval. School Board Briefing/Proposed Action Report

--This is riduculious

Anonymous said...


What would help Sped Ed students the most right now (from your viewpoint)? 

From my point of view (20+ years of experience) many sped students need more access to the general education curriculum and peers: true inclusion. Currently, merely being in the lunchroom, at an assembly, or on the playground the same time as their general education peers is considered inclusion. That is really just an illusion of inclusion. I know many teachers open to having an academically diverse class but it requires the support of instructional assistants. Saying the teacher can manage without support if they have the right attitude and if they "differentiate" is dismissive of what appropriate inclusion really needs. So, we need trained IAs in the general ed classrooms.

What supports do schools need that they are currently not receiving?

Consulting teachers have been very helpful and I think the special education students usually benefit from their involvement. Unfortunately, their positions are being eliminated or redesigned or something. Like parents in this district, lots of staff are left in the dark about plans. So, TRANSPARENCY and TIMELY COMMUNICATION would be on my list of "needed from JSCEE."

What would help the frontline district staff people?

Sped staffers need access to appropriate professional development. We need to be allowed release time to go observe successful programs and other professionals. We need to be able to express our opinions regarding our students needs without being coerced  before IEP meetings (yes, this does happen). We need supvisors who act with integrity. 

One can wish!!! Thanks for asking Melissa.

Sped Staffer

mirmac1 said...

Sped staffer,

I absolutely agree. I have learned that even CO Sped staff are being kept in the dark with respect to budget. I am heartened to learn that at least the priorities seem to be right, that Banda does not just pay lip service to inclusion and IDEA. If not, I couldn't explain the robust response to OSPI's better late than never enforcement action.

Anonymous said...

With respect Sped Staffer, it ain't about the IAs. Yes, good IAs are a great asset. But, the general ed teacher has to expect to do the work of teaching ALL students and the work of considering ALL students when he/she makes every plan. Yes every single one of the students, and consider their IEPs too, and every single decision. Only THEN do you add the support of the IA. Inclusion is not about having an IA follow the kid around all day, usually sitting with them in the back of the room, wiping their nose, dotting every i on their paper, handing out skittles, and making sure everything goes right every time. It's about executing a well crafted lesson from the actual teacher who actually expects that all children will learn something in her/his classroom, albeit maybe not the exact same thing. It's about doing a whole lot more than "stand and deliver." It's about providing instruction with many entry points. Many teachers just don't bother, but some do, and some do great. And because some do, we know it's something that is possible and should be expected.

A well respected teacher told me to my face, quite nicely, that public schools really just weren't the right place for my kid. (My kid has 0 behavior problems.) He just didnt' want to do anything different than what he always did, didn't think it could be done... even though, otherwise he is a decent and respectable teacher. (and my student has an aide all to himself in this class) The teacher's honest opinion is that students with signficant disabilities shouldn't be in public school: at all.

You see Sped Staffer, that's what we parents have to deal with EVERY day. That's what we have to work around, over and over again. And no, we shouldn't have to. And no, it isn't about the money. It's about WILL.

I disagree with the effectiveness of consulting teachers. Mostly they are service gatekeepers - charged with doling out as little as they possibly can, and foisting their own ideas about what works onto IEP teams based on whatever goodies they happen to have available at any given time. Student needs are secondary as you have already noted. After a while, nobody who sits in an office counting butts and seats knows much about actual instruction. Yep, they can deny service, and maybe cajole a bus into showing up every now and then. That's about it though.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

Is there anything that non-Sped families can do to support Sped improvements?

Thanks for asking. Improving "sped" isn't just about fixing somebody else, it's about fixing ourselves. Here are the things I can think of. Invite Sped students to your home and encourage friendships with your children. That is the number one thing you can do without question. Support equal access for students with disabilities to ALL school classrooms and activities without limits. Bring down the barriers. Ask "what about the students with disabilities, the most disabled ones?" at every aftershool event, every tutoring session, every enrichment activity, every field trip, on every out of town trip, every sporting venue. Not every person will benefit from every ativity, but the bar should be what benefits the individual student, and that alone. That type of inclusion - supported by everyone, and supporting everyone is what it takes. And when it happens, even a little bit, you'll know you did a great thing. It does happen now, in small steps.

-Sped Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sped Staffer and Parent, thank you for your honesty.

It is interesting to see where you merge and diverge.

It breaks my heart to think there are those who think kids with special ed needs should not be in the gen ed classroom.

I'm going to put this up as a thread of its own because I think people need to see this kind of dialog.

Anonymous said...

Sped Parent,

You are so right. Good IAs are key. I do not see their role as handing out Skittles. For that matter, I am opposed to 1:1 IAs for all but a very few medically fragile students. IAs need to be there for all the students, FOLLOWING the lesson plan developed and differentiated by the teacher. In fact, I think the IA should be working with the more capable learners while the teacher directs his/her time to those needing a more experienced instructor.

I find it unconscionable that any one would suggest your student did not belong in a public school. How is it that this person was considered "respectable" if this was his position?

As I said in my earlier post. We also need opportunities to observe situations and teachers who are making inclusion happen. I do know it is not happening everywhere but should be.

Sped Staffer

Anonymous said...

It breaks my heart to think there are those who think kids with special ed needs should not be in the gen ed classroom.

Actually Melissa, the teacher actually thinks my child shouldn't be in public school at all, in any setting. Or maybe the teacher just recognized that most settings weren't good. No matter, he simply wasn't willing to move to doing what it really takes, because he doubts the public system's ability to serve. I'm not saying the teacher has no value, or is completely horrible. He's often pretty good. Just that the resistance to serving all students is deep, very deep.

Sped Parent