Sunday, June 30, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

 To note, it appears there will be no other district/Board meetings after the July 3rd Board meeting until early August.

Wednesday, July 3rd
 School Board meeting at 4:15 p.m. - Agenda
Even during the sleepy summer months, a lot is happening.  At this meeting, the Strategic Plan will be voted on. 

The Board will heard a report about FERPA re: Common Core and the student data "cloud." (I will be putting out a white paper on this topic so look for that.) 

The Board will vote to extend the Superintendent's contract by one year to June 2016.  (They are not considering a raise until after bargaining agreements are done and the district's budget is set.  I personally would not be for a raise at this point in time.  Apparently, according to the item, there is no public input sought on the issue of a raise or extension of his contract.)

Hey and look what is delayed (again)?  It's the Highly Capable Student Program State Grant.  No grant form attached so the Superintendent is delaying it until August 21st.

The district wants to transfer $3.3M from Capital to the General Fund, I believe for, technology salaries and higher than expected general maintenance.  But here's the explanation and a prize for the person who susses it out for me best:

Technology salaries have been budgeted and expended in both the Capital Projects Fund and the General Fund. According to the State Accounting Manual, certain of these expenditures should be recorded in the General Fund, which then may be reimbursed by the Capital Projects Fund.
The General Fund budget will have increased salary expenditures. This will not require a budget extension because there is capacity within the General Fund for this increase in expenditures.
These expenditures will be reimbursed by the Capital Fund through transfers between the funds,
so there is no net effect on the fund balance. The Capital Fund will have decreased salary
expenditures and a corresponding increase in transfers out to the General Fund, with no effect on
the fund balance.

I know what all these words mean.  I think I understand what it means but I would like to hear what others think it does.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Washington State Budget: A Win for Schools?

The answer to that headline is - not really.  Are they getting more money?  Yes.  Enough money? No.  Can the Supreme Court really do anything?  Doubtful.

So really, it's a lot of legislators blowing smoke about education.  (And no legislator should pat themself on the back for finally getting a budget.  That said, I know many districts are relieved to finally have some answers so they can finish their own budgets.)

The Times reports that half the money would go to fund "student transportation, school supplies and building utilities" (things districts now pay for that the Supreme Court - go figure - said the state should pay for).

The rest would go toward expanding state-funded all-day kindergarten and class-size reduction in kindergarten/1st grade in high-povery schools.

This is all great but not enough.  (I believe the class-size reduction is about two students per class.  I don't know if the kindergarten funding means no more pay-for-K.)  

Here's The Stranger's Goldy and his pithy breakdown:

The Washington State senate just passed a two-year budget that includes an additional billion dollars for K-12 schools! Yay! Except it's not really a billion dollars. The expenditure changes above the 2013-2015 maintenance level budget (the amount of money needed to maintain 2011-2013 services at constant levels) is actually $944 million, which under no math I'm familiar with is routinely rounded up to $1 billion. 

But even that's deceptive. For the budget also lists another $295 million in policy compensation changes—mostly the money saved by once again suspending cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for teachers. The actual "Total Policy Changes" as listed on the legislature's own budget document (pdf) is $648,594,000. That's how much more money we're really putting into our K-12 schools: $648.6 million. (Unless, of course, you don't consider teacher pay to be a legitimate cost of operating public schools.) A legislative committee had determined that at least $1.5 billion in additional spending was needed to satisfy a court ordered downpayment on the McCleary decision.

FYI, teachers will now go six years without a COLA raise, leaving them 16 percent behind inflation. Because education reform!

The WEA concurs on this "$1B" for public education.  What the WEA says:

 Legislators are claiming the final proposed state budget increases K-12 funding by $1 billion, yet the state’s own budget summary shows the increase is substantially less.

In particular, the budget fails to fund smaller class sizes for all students, which means Washington’s average class sizes will continue to be ranked 47th in the nation. The budget also continues the suspension of educator cost-of-living adjustments, even though Washington’s teachers are the lowest paid among West Coast states and will go six years without a state pay increase.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Last Words from a Sweet, Decent Young Woman

I'm sure most of you heard about the drive-by shooting in Lake Stevens of Molly Conley,  student at Bishop Blanchet High School.  She was shot to death on her 15th birthday; the police have no suspects in custody at this time.

From My Northwest, Linda Thomas reports that the school sent home her report card and in the envelope was a letter she wrote to her class as a last assignment. 

Blanchet is a Catholic school so Molly does speak in religious terms.  But what she asks of her classmates (and herself) should ring true for all teens.  Show this to your middle schooler or teen and ask them to consider what she says going forward in their lives.  Hers is over but maybe she can generate some real thought about how students treat each other.

I particularly like her last paragraph.
Dear Class of 2016, I pray that we can find a way to connect and get along before our last year together. I pray we are different. I pray that we can be a family. I pray that we can make this school our home.
High school is a trying time in which we must look to God for help. We should all be comfortable with asking for help with anything. I feel we got a great start on our frosh retreat. However, we all need to get things off our chest and a great way to do that is to pray, but I know that we all aren't religious so I encourage you to look for help in the people around you.
If we all get to know each other now it will make our lives together that much better. Now I am not asking for everyone to be great friends but the least we could do is respect one another. This is like how Jesus says to treat others how you would like to be treated. If we do that then we would no longer hurt each other. Another way to say that is put yourself in their shoes. We need to know that everyone has different things they are dealing with. It is very often that I forget the world does not revolve around me. I admit that I get caught up in my own life and forget other people have troubles also. When I remember that I am able to be more understanding of others. If we all step back for a second and remember we all have our troubles we will be able to respect each other more easily.
We need to see each other as humans not as a name on a screen. We need to be kind to each other face to face and on the internet. Our generation faces so many obstacles because of the tools we are given. The internet and phones were practically made to let people get away with bullying and that is an unfortunate truth. However we can be the change. We can turn the internet into what it was originally intended for, a tool for learning and sharing. A way for people to bond with people all around the world. All we have to do is respect each other. All we have to do to change is to be aware. So I pray that we will take these next few years together and make them great.

Advanced Learning Service Delivery Models

The District will appoint a Task Force this fall to answer the question:
What service delivery model should we use for Advanced Learning?

It's a question that can have only one answer. There can be only one answer because there is a bigger question that takes precedence:
Will we deliver service or not?

Students and families don't care if they get no service from a small group instruction model or whether they get no service from a "walk to" model. Either way they are getting no service.

We can't know what decisions the District will make about the future of advanced learning, but we do know that the actual service will have to be delivered in the schools, not in the JSCEE. We also know that no one in the JSCEE can - or will - guarantee the quality and efficacy of the service. In fact, they cannot even guarantee the existence of that service.

They never have guaranteed service delivery and they never will. Do they give any assurance of the quality or efficacy of ALOs or Spectrum? No, they do not. They don't even measure the quality or efficacy of these programs.

There is, however, one service delivery model that guarantees service: cohort. Ask anyone. Even when the instruction isn't there, the cohort will deliver value. over the years there have been dozens of classrooms where the instruction wasn't there, but the cohort made it work. So that's one service delivery model that assures families of service delivery.

What about the others? I think I can say that every other service delivery model assures families of no service. Sure, a teacher here or there will do it, or the service will be there for a while, but eventually that service will stop and it won't start again.

So we have one service delivery model that guarantees service and every other service delivery model that guarantees an end to service. Kinda makes the question easy to answer, doesn't it?

Friday Open Thread

It's summer and yet it feels busier than ever.

Saturday community meeting with Director Patu at Cafe Vita at 10 am.

Concerning story about the use of Roundup and links to autism, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's from Nation of Change.

The authors of the new review call for more independent research to validate their findings, stating that “glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and contrary to being essentially nontoxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”
From Director Carr on the subject of the Management Letter from the SAO:

Please be clear that the Board doesn’t respond to the SAO – our management team does. The SAO doesn’t require to response to management letters, only to findings. The management team is required to develop corrective action to the Board as we track all levels in A&F (findings, exit items, management letters) though they are provided some flow time to develop that plan (so we don’t have it yet).

I actually didn't expect the Board to say anything publicly.   In my e-mail I urged them to let the Superintendent know how much this kind of information concerns them and that it is not good for staff morale.  Nothing directive of the sort but I believe it is okay to say, "not good, not helping."  You don't have to wait for a meeting for that kind of message.

She also let me know that as of mid-May, 2013, Mr. Neskahi from the Native American program (he of the $20k raise) no longer works for the district.  Here's the personnel report.  It is troubling because it shows the issue that is one of concern nationally - the number of teachers/librarians retiring.

I am also very surprised to see that Clarence Acox, Jr., music director and teacher extraordinaire at Garfield, has left as of June 30th.  What happened?  UPDATE:  apparently he is staying but no explanation as to why his name was on the leaving list. 

What's on your mind?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Human Resources at SPS: Going Up or Down?

There are sometimes days doing this watchdog work that are defeating, sad and frustrating.  Today is one those.  I'll get to the issue at hand but a few thoughts first.

I've said this before - I do truly believe we have some good and decent people working in SPS.  There are several up the food chain who are almost great but, like many a bureaucracy, have those whose work either drags them down or mires them in place.

I've also said this before - anyone who works in leadership at SPS who does not read and heed the words in the Moss-Adams report of 2002 is doomed to failure.  Or, at least doomed to frustration.

The echo in my head from that brilliant report (and I paraphrase here) -

 It does not matter what structural or systemic change you bring to an institution, if the culture of bureaucracy at an institution does not change, nothing changes.

This has been, and continues to be, the problem with our district.

You really need someone at the top who comes in and, day one, heads this culture of change.   
A fish rots from the head.  

That said, many issues that do come up in our district could be headed off if we had systems in place to catch errors or transgrations.  Director Martin-Morris was very, very on-point when he recently said that compliance is key to getting work done and (presumably) moving forward.  If you don't get bogged down with old problems, that's when you move ahead.

If people feel siloed in their work, you are going to get problems.

If there is some kind of feeling of "circle the wagons" around a department or a "I have to get mine" attitude, you are going to get problems.

Now you could ask, "Melissa, how do you know this?  You don't work there."  Yes and I don't presume to know what it's like but after a long time watching, I have a pretty good idea.  And, after seeing some of the same issues come up time after time, you start to get a pretty good idea of how people are thinking. 

To the issue at hand.  As you recall, last week the State Auditor's office issued an audit about facilities' rental issues, lack of oversight with the JOA between the district and parks, etc.  Turns out there was another document - a letter to management from the State Auditor.

Most of it is about Human Resources and how salary changes are recorded as well as where the money comes from for those salaries.  The letter says, "In the nine of the last ten audits, we reported internal control weaknesses in the District's accounting for payroll expenditures."

There is good, bad and ugly in this letter.

Final Board Evaluation Meeting

The Board met briefly last night to finalize the language for the narrative summary of the Board evaluation. It was a Kumbaya moment. For a minute there I thought they might actually all join together in song as they declared a "fresh start". They pledged to put the past behind them and go forward in a spirit of trust. I'm not kidding - they went around the table and each pledged.

I'm okay with putting the past behind and facing forward, but let's not pretend that fresh starts and accountability are not in direct opposition. You can't preach accountability and then write off past bad actions with a flippant Hakuna Matata. Seriously, if I were a Board Director and I knew that there was going to be this sort of general amnesty on past transgressions I would have taken the opportunity to do something really nasty and divisive - like give a newspaper interview and call a board colleague untrustworthy.

I think it's a bit ironic that they re-pledge themselves to accountability by taking an action that is the antithesis of accountability.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What is the procedure for principal appointments?

There have been and will be a number of new principal appointments made for the coming school year. In some cases the school communities have been allowed to offer input on the selection of their principal. In some cases the school community has formed a hiring committee and interviewed candidates. In other cases, however, schools have been assigned a principal with little or no community input or engagement.

Are you freakin' kidding me? 12% of students in APP?!

Per Rachel Cassidy, the District demographer, 12% of Seattle Public School students in grades 6 to 8 living in the McClure, Whitman, Hamilton, and Eckstein attendance areas are enrolled in middle school APP.

You read that right. 12% of north-end middle school students are in APP.

How can this be possible? The program is intended for students in the top 2% nationally for cognitive ability and in the top 5% nationally for reading and math achievement. Sure there will be some local variations from 2%, but to be a full ten percentage points above the national mean seems a bit... much.

Growth Boundaries Presentation and Trust

On June 1st, at the Board Retreat, there was a lot of talk about trust. Here's one statement from that event that I recall clearly:

"You cannot talk yourself out of a trust issue that you acted yourself into."

Everyone at the retreat - Board directors and senior staff - pledged themselves to building trust.

That was just a few weeks ago. Then, yesterday, we get a presentation from the senior staff, Board Work Session - Equitable Access, Growth Boundaries & Capacity Management, which is rife with dishonesty and deception.

Boundaries and Capacity Management Work Session

This Work Session had a larger-than-normal audience which is a good thing because now there are other witnesses to what was discussed.  

Charlie and I both went and came armed with ideas for the Board to consider.  (He outdid me, of course, with his sheet with 23(!) questions.  He checked them off as they went along.  At least five of them got asked but not necessarily answered.)  I gave them a sheet with comments copped from Charlie's previous thread. 

And, with apologies to all other programs, somehow Advanced Learning/Highly Capable got the lion's share of discussion.

Michael Tolley started the session, outlining the higher level thinking.  However, the presentation, on slide 3, says that one goal of the process is to "include access to services and programs as a key component in boundary revisions."  To which Charlie wrote in the margin "except Montessori."  And, he's right.  Montessori is in neighborhood schools but is an optional program.  There are three of them in the district- north, central and SE - but there is nothing about equitable access to this program.  (I would say that parents aren't clamoring for it but I could also say that about foreign language immersion.)

President Smith-Blum asked about the notation on Slide 9 about the Guiding Principles being in conflict.  Tracy Libros said one was balancing diversity versus walkability.  Smith-Blum disagreed, saying that they had "tools in the kit" to do this.  Tracy asked her to hold that thought as she would come back to the issue.

Charlie saw one question - where is the rationale for siting EOC and The World School at their project locations - asked but not really answered.  Pegi McEvoy offered that TT Minor - the site for The World School - has "services" for students in the area but didn't name them.  The Board did not follow up.

They zipped right thru Special Education which surprised me.

Then we got to Advanced Learning.  (You may wonder why the district is using the term "highly capable" in this discussion when it got rid of using that name for the overall program years ago.  Highly Capable is the term the state uses and is the name used in the grant that supplies money for APP.  So when you see "highly capable", they mean APP. )

Doing the George Costanza in China

So China is now deciding that for public education, the idea that testing is best, is now going out the window.  From The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post:

China just began a major education reform effort that is aimed at reducing the importance of standardized testing in determining school quality and including factors such as student engagement, boredom, anxiety, and happiness. 

As scholar Yong Zhao notes in the following post, the approach is the opposite of the education reform path in the United States, which in recent years has increased the importance of test scores for accountability purposes.

We all know that China was never famous for individual thought or creativity.  But even they seem to realize to create a better educated populace, that testing will not do it.  They realize that using only test scores to send students to higher level schools is a bad idea. 

From the Chinese Ministry of Education:

“However, due to internal and external factors, the tendency to evaluate education quality based simply on student test scores and school admissions rate has not been fundamentally changed,” says the document. “These problems [of evaluation] severely hamper student development as a whole person, stunt their healthy growth, and limit opportunities to cultivate social responsibilities, creative spirit, and practical abilities in students.”

I know.  The U.S. is not China.  But given that the top-performing countries in the world - Finland and China - are not using testing as the main evaluation of their teaching outcomes, the U.S. might want to consider what it's doing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Open Thread

Update:  I have learned that the W-P design team discussed 4 options for W-P and overwhelmingly went with the one with the buildings at opposite ends of the property.  However, I am getting early warning that #4 might not make tonight's discussion.  Those of you going, keep an eye out for this and if there aren't 4 of them, ask why not.

End of update.

Presentation for tonight's Work Session on Growth Boundaries and Capacity Management (it also says Equitable Access in the title but since the equitable access framework is not in place, I don't get why that's there).

I like slide 9:

Expect recommendations to change during the process.

•Authentic community engagement leads to ongoing input from multiple sources, including new ideas and different ways of thinking about issues.

•Some of the Guiding Principles express conflicting values. The relative priority of Guiding Principles may vary depending on the issue.

•Technical and feasibility issues may also result in changes (e.g. transportation costs, construction schedule)

Pages 17- 27 on Advanced Learning.  Some interesting/funny reading/problematic reading.

What's on your mind?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Seattle Schools Knows How to Spend Money but Not Make Money

At least that's what you might think if read the recent State Auditor findings  on the district's handling of rentals for district facilities.  It is hard not to be frustrated over the district not tracking ALL the money AND probably losing money from the joint use agreement with city parks.  (In a couple of places it even smacks of some kind of insider help for some groups.)

From the audit:


The Building Rentals Office (rentals office) is responsible for collecting the required insurance and concussion management compliance documentation, issuing permits for facilities usage and invoicing outside organizations that are required to pay. The rentals office is also responsible for training school-level employees how to use the online system and inform them of the District’s requirements to submit all ―school related‖ events through the system, as well as refer outside organizations’ facilities usage requests to the rentals office.

In addition, the rentals office is responsible for monitoring the Joint Facilities Usage Agreement (JUA) with the local parks department. As part of the agreement, the District
and the city parks department agreed to use fees established in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for nonjoint usage fees by city parks programs that use Memorial Stadium and District Athletics Complexes.

The MOA requires the city parks department to collect lighting fees and youth and adult field usage fees for practices and games at District facilities.

  • rental office cannot show they are invoicing for facilities usage as required by district policy
  • they didn't bill for nearly 2500 events (9,000 hours of usage) over this school year.  Depending on who rented it plus extra fees for custodial, security and utilities, the district lost "substantial revenue."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

Even though school is out there are several important meetings this week.

Tuesday, June 25th
Work Session on Growth Boundaries, 4:30-6:30 pm, no presentation yet available.
This is the Work Session that Tracy Libros referenced in her remarks to the Board at the School Board meeting last Wednesday.  She mentioned that Lucy Morello of BEX would also be presenting in conjunction with capacity management.

Community Meeting about the Wilson-Pacific projects, 7:30 pm at W-P

Wednesday, June 26th
Work Session on Strategic Partnerships and Communications, 4-5:30 pm  (I have no idea of how anyone thinks there could be any real discussion of any of these departments in this amount of time.  It's just ridiculous unless, of course, the idea is to NOT have discussion.)
- Government Relations presentation
- Office of Public Affairs and Communications presentation.
- School and Community Partnerships Department presentation.  Oddly, this one includes the new - - - Office of Strategic Planning and I'm not sure why.  I also note that the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy got taken out of this plan.
- School Family Partnerships presentation (not yet available)
- Race & Equity presentation (not yet available) 

Work Session on Transition to Common Core State Standards, 5:30-7:00 pm, presentation
Also interesting as the district has been very low-key on this subject as other states forge ahead.  A LOT of concerns about this one.  I note that Director Carr, based on public testimony, has asked Legal for a clarification about FERPA and student data  at the July 3rd Board meeting (which can easily be predicted to be woefully under-attended).

Checking the presentation, there it is - the early warning that we have been seeing in NY State and warned about (even by Danielson):

An expected increase in rigor in a Washington state Common Core test:
–Based on a comparison between WA state tests in 2011 and NAEP, districts should prepare for a 

10 –33 percentage point drop in reading and math proficiency.
–In 2012, 24
-31% of students scored below proficient in reading and mathematics. The district should prepare for this to grow to 40-50% under a Common Core test.

A knee-slapper -
- educate the community about the goals of Common Core

A little late in the game for the district to be getting to this but better late than never.

The key slide is on page 22/23 on Needs Assessment, Resources , Leadership and staff, and Be Prepared.  Is our district ready on all levels and do parents even know this is coming and what it means?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Have You Been to a Mayoral Forum Yet?

Or are you waiting to see how it all shakes out after the primary on August 6th? 

On the one hand, the one person I did not want to be mayor - from a public education standpoint - was Tim Burgess.  He made it much easier because he walked away.  (But he made it clear he hoped for a new mayor in the fall.) 

I am continuing to talk with all the candidates and it makes for some interesting discussions.  What I plan to do is offer tidbits of those conversations and make some suggestions for candidates I think would be good for public education.  There won't be any endorsement per se of one candidate. 

There are several mayoral forums coming up this next week:

Sunday, June 23rd, the South Lake Union Mayoral Forum at  2 pm at the Immanuel Lutheran Church at Pontinus and Thomas (moderated by C.R. Douglas - I'm a big fan of his). 

Wednesday, June 26th, the City Neighborhood Council Forum from 6-8 pm at City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room

More Information -Submit Candidate Questions: seattlecnc@gmail.com
The NW Film Forum asked the candidates about their favorite films about politics and political philosophy and is running some of them in a festival from July 5-8.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Mike McGinn - a great film and a good one for older students (probably 5th grade and up).
All the President's Men - Kate Martin - also a great film about uncovering the Watergate scandal
Papillon - Bruce Harrell - a good film (and interesting choice)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley - Ed Murray - I haven't seen this one but it was directed by Ken Loach, a great director and is about the struggle for Irish independence.
Buddy, The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Mayor - Peter Steinbrueck - a documentary of the mayor of Providence

Me?  I like the choice of To Kill a Mockingbird but I also liked The Candidate (from 1972 with Robert Redford) and Election (a high school election but with all the political machinations you might find in any big scale one). 

From the Seattle Council PTSA

Thank you to Lauren McGuire, her Board and all those who serve on PTA Boards.  It's a busy and sometimes tough job so thank you for your time and efforts.  Lauren is a kind, calm and dedicated person (and is also a good sport).

Her letter to members: 

Dear Seattle PTA and PTSA Members,
Summer is here!   I hope you all find time to spend with your kids and enjoy some recreational time.  Before I sign off as Seattle Council PTSA President, I'd like to thank the current SCPTSA Board for their dedication.
  • Ann Weber -- Vice President and Acting NW Area Director
  • Dianne Casper -- Treasurer
  • Andrea Bown -- Secretary
  • Linnea Fichter -- Legislative Chair
  • Daphne Dejanikus and Leanne Hawkins -- Enrichment and Reflections Co-Chairs
  • Sebrena Burr and Carlina Brown-Banks -- SE Area Directors
  • Monica Mace -- Northeast Area Director
  • Katherine Schomer -- Central Area Director
  • Leda Goncharoff -- Interim eNews Editor
  • Sharon Rodgers -- Seattle Council PTSA's Service Delivery Team rep for Region 6
I'd like to offer a special thanks to Betsy Hudson who led the SCPTSA Building Use Committee.  In the beginning of the year, SPS was charging rent to PTAs and their activity providers for before and after school enrichment activities.  Betsy has worked tirelessly with district and PTA Enrichment Program Coordinators to raise awareness of the issue and ask for better policies and procedures on room reservations and other policies affecting enrichment programs.  After working on this all year, we are very close to a solution.  We will let you know as soon as we know.  Coordinators and PTA leaders who wish to join the Enrichment Coordinator Google Group to receive updates and exchange information can contact Betsy at betsyinseattle@gmail.com.
I've enjoyed these past two and half years working as your Seattle Council PTSA President.  I've learned a lot and met many wonderful people who sincerely want the best for all Seattle students.  I wish the new Executive Committee -- Katherine Schomer, Linnea Fichter, Dianne Casper and Kathy Gerke-- all the best for next year.  
Lauren McGuire
President, Seattle Council PTSA

Friday, June 21, 2013

Start Time Petition

There are lots and lots of great reasons for Seattle Public Schools to swap around the start times for school so that elementary school starts earlier and middle and high school starts later.

A group called Start School Later Seattle has is looking for a resounding show of support for moving secondary schools to a later start time. They have created a petition. You can express your support for the effort by signing the petition athttp://petitions.moveon.org/sign/later-start-time-for?mailing_id=13345

Good Stuff for Kids this Weekend

Honk! Fest West. 

HONK! Fest West is a free, three-day, community-supported music festival devoted to marching bands, drum corps, samba lines, and anything acoustic and mobile that makes a ruckus. We revel in celebration of street band culture by taking mirth and music to the streets and parks of Seattle.
Always family-friendly, always free :: fanciful costumery and audience participation are *highly* encouraged!

HONK! Fest West 2013, Seattle’s free festival celebrating street band culture with fanfare performances, will be taking the streets and parks by horn, drum, and HONK!er on June 21st, 22nd, and 23rd.

Fremont Fair and the Solstice Parade (parade is Sat at 3 pm but there is also a dog parade for all on Sunday )

Fremont, Fri. 6/21 to Sun. 6/23, FREE
Note: most know this by now but if not, the Parade DOES feature naked (but painted) people on bikes. 

One of my favorites (and starting Monday) is the Trader Joe's Silent Movie Mondays at The Paramount.  This year's series has international silent films. 

When to Talk to Kids about (Gulp!) Porn

Seattle's Child has a worthwhile article on this topic.  You can say, "Well, I haven't even talked about sex, no less porn." 

My reaction is that we are growing up in a very different time than when we grew up vis a vis the access to these kinds of media.  There is a good chance that if your child has access to a computer, they may accidentally (or on purpose) view porn.  (Did you know that whitehouse.com is a porn site?  Yeah, your child is doing research, puts in the wrong letters and there you are.)

Seattle Juneteenth Mayoral Forum and talk of Seattle Schools

From the Times:

The candidates who were there had some tough talk for Seattle Public Schools. State Sen. Ed Murray said if he were mayor, he would forge a new partnership with the school district to increase the graduation rate.

“The school district has to change,” he said, vowing to make improvements in the graduation rate and how money is targeted — or, he said, “Please yell at me and vote me out of office.”
Usually, the school district blames the state Legislature for district problems, so it was interesting to hear that.

Ed Murray is my senator and yes, I am a bit surprised to hear him say this.  He hasn't said a lot about Seattle schools in any pre-mayor bid venue.  His advocacy has been limited (and appreciated) to the Legislature.  Without specifics, this isn't much (and I'm still waiting to interview him so we'll see).

Also, note to the Times, the district does not blame the Legislature for all its problems; just the funding ones. 

Mayor Mike McGinn talked about his work on the Youth Violence Initiative, and Harrell talked about problems with institutional racism. And all the candidates were clear that out-of-school suspensions are a problem, and the city needs a program to keep kids in trouble in school.

There were several speakers at this week's Board meeting about this issue of school discipline especially around suspensions and expulsions (especially well-done by Dr. Carol Simmons, a long-time - much, much longer than Charlie or me - public educator and advocate for at-risk students).

Then there was this:

Friday Open Thread

One important note from the Board meeting - parent Mary Griffin spoke out about the issues around student data information, the inBloom student data "cloud" and FERPA and HIPPA (for students with disabilities). 

She let the Board know that neither of those would protect student data if the district signed an agreement with a third-party allowing access to student information. 

Director Sherry Carr, during her director comments, said she wanted clarity on this issue and asked for feedback from the district's legal counsel.  (I wrote to her and asked about when she wanted this and she said she wasn't sure she had a confirming vote from another director for this information.  She said she would check with legal counsel, Ron English.)

I have been working with a couple of parents on this issue and I urge you to encourage the Board to seek this information. 

Please write to them - schoolboard@seattleschools.org - and add your voice to this concern and ask for clarifying information for the Board.  

I plan to organize the work done by my group and submit it to the Board (and will, of course, post it here). I'll let you know at which Board meeting any update will be issued.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Work out of sequence will create problems

The attendance area boundary work is scheduled out and will end in a motion before the Board introduced in October and approved in November.

There is also work scheduled out for discussion and decision about the re-vision of Advanced Learning and Special Education. The timetable for that work should have it finish up some time around January of 2014.

There is no current timetable set for the Equitable Access Framework. It was supposed to be done by April, but it has hardly been started.

This represents work getting done out of sequence.

Seattle Superintendent Performance Evaluation

Here's Superintendent Banda's Performance Evaluation.  You will see that this is based on a "supermajority" of the Board (I would assume that to be 5 people) with a minority assessment coming at the end of the evaluation. 

From the evaluation:
These evaluation criteria focus on five areas:

Hire, Develop and Strengthen Leaders:

Teacher/Principal and Central Staff evaluations; Hire quality leadership to fill vacant positions; professional development
Raising expectations and improving academic performance and opportunities of all students:
narrow achievement gaps, growth for English Language Learners; implementation of Common
Core State Standards;

Building relationships with selected stakeholders to connect them to our schools: 

Family engagement, Labor Partners and community based organizations.
Governance Team Priorities and Areas of Continuing Emphasis: 

Develop a plan for BEX IV and EP&O levies; a framework and process for collective bargaining; bring professional growth and Evaluation system to scale; develop community outreach
for the strategic plan; develop the Equitable Access Framework; develop student support strategies; expand the transparency of district decision-making

Core Competencies:

Collaboration; Getting Results, Decision Quality and Problem Solving, Integrity, Accountability and
Fiscal Responsibility

Overall Assessment:
In his first year, Mr. Banda has performed well in leading the District. The superintendent’s performance has been evaluated by a supermajority of the Board as “Exceeds Expectations” in
four areas and “Meets Expectations” in the fifth area.

In applying these criteria, the Board acknowledges that it has high expectations, and a rating of “Meets Expectations” is seen as having met those expectations. A rating of“Exceeds Expectations” should be considered as performance significantly above what is required. 

My biggest issues are these:

- Equitable Access Framework - I have no idea why this is so challenging as it affects nearly every other decision.  As Charlie has pointed out, they moved forward with BEX IV without it.  Now it appears they will move forward on boundaries without it.  It affects program placement which will affect boundaries/capacity management.

And yet it is still on the "to do" list.

- I'm with the Board; I'd like to see some stronger outward leadership action by the Superintendent.  From the halls of headquarters to the greater community, I think this important.

Seattle Schools Growth Boundaries Project

 I would bookmark this SSCF page as it has a lot of boundary dates/meetings noted.

Thanks to reader Kim for alerting me to this page

Tracy Libros told the Board about this last night.  She updated the Board on this work including:

- Growth Boundaries website
- Work Session on this work next Tuesday the 25th from 4:30-6:30 pm.*
- They are developing FAQs for this work
- the Walk the Boundaries project is being worked on with help from parent volunteers (good for you, Tracy, for reaching out to willing parents)
- They have a consultant working on Seattle housing changes to assist with projections.
- Email comments to: GrowthBoundaries@seattleschools.org.
   (Please put your school or topic in the subject line.)

* There is also a Community Meeting on the Wilson-Pacific BEX IV projects that night at the Wilson-Pacific Seamat Center, 1330 N. 90th St. from 7:30-8:30 p.m. (it will go later if there are enough community questions).  

District's Timeline for Community Engagement

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Charter Commission Meeting Update

I checked the agenda for tomorrow's Charter Commission meeting and it is truncated because they will be doing interviews for Executive Director in the morning. 

So there will be nothing of import for the public to see until 12:50 pm when there will be Public Comment.  They will then discuss rulemaking and planning, reviewing the proposal for work by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Chairman report, Staff report, and Conflict of interest subcommittee report.  This all ends around 3:30 p.m. when they go into Executive Session again for another interview. 

After that (about an hour), it's a wrap-up of the day and review of assignments and July's agenda.  They adjourn at 5 pm.

Reminder, this time it's at this location in Seattle:

Seattle University, Loyola 203
901 12th Ave

Harsh Words at Seattle Weekly about the Board

What does Adele say in her soundtrack song, Skyfall? 

"This is the end.  Hold your breath and count to ten." 

I guess so for Director Michael DeBell who lets loose in a damning article against the entire School Board (and I think he forgets - he's a member of that august body).   Any thought about a Board working together over the next six months seems out the door.  Good work, Director DeBell and I point out here, he has just violated the Board's own policy in saying this:

Over coffee last week, DeBell calls Smith-Blum “not very trustworthy” --a comment that drove the board president, upon hearing it, to send out an angry e-mail to DeBell, other board members and the superintendent demanding a retraction. 

This because of this:

After she was elected president in 4-3 vote, Smith-Blum gave the old guard members one committee assignment each while giving those who voted for her three. It was a move she said was meant to allow the senior members of the board to take on other time-consuming tasks besides committee assignments, like legislative advocacy; but to DeBell, it felt like a way of marginalizing the long serving members, and still evokes bitterness.  

Again, to understand.  President Smith-Blum asked every single member about assignments being aware that work beyond committee assignments also includes travel (Director Martin-Morris travels a lot for Board work).  But DeBell sees it as being marginalized even as every single director can go to any committee meeting and give input and question staff. 

I need to get out the door so I can't list all the issues with the article (and there are several including DeBell's old song-and-dance as to why Dr. Enfield left.  I hate to tell him but he was an issue as well.)

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (and see if the Board Does Its Oversight Job)

Update Two: I attended the Board meeting.  I pointed out that the Advanced Learning grant application was not attached to the agenda but no problem says the Board as they roll along.  Ms. Heath comes forward to explain there was an "error" in thinking that the AL Taskforce has anything to do with it.  It was the "advisory committee."  I'm thinking it was the APP Advisory Committee as that's the only one that currently exists.

This is fine because the grant only covers APP.

I just don't want anyone thinking that anything has been done on Spectrum or ALOs.

What is interesting - ALERT - is that Director Carr, after listening to the public testimony where a parent said the survey done during the AL Taskforce work could be useful, stated that she thought it might be useful going forward.  (The parent pointed out the high rate of approval for APP - at about 90% - and Spectrum (about 73%) and ALOs (about 65%).

So write her and encourage this thinking.

End of second update.

Update:  Hey, the Alliance announced the roll-out event for the Seattle Teacher Residency and it's tomorrow.  I got this via a press release so I have to wonder if this is a quickly thrown together event or I got this notice late.  It's at the NW African-American Museum from 5-7 p.m.

I also note that it is now 1:20 pm with the Board meeting in about three hours and yet that Highly Capable Grant application is still linked on the agenda.  Odd.  (But neither is the Superintendent's evaluation so there you go.)

End of update.

I recently wrote an e-mail to the Board about two subjects on tonight's Board agenda.

One was the newly-minted Seattle Teacher Residency program.

The other is the Highly Capable Grant application.

Both are on the Intro agenda.  The STR has a number of glaring issues and the Highly Capable Grant application has one (plus a curious reworking of SPS history).

Issues with STR:

- the MOA had been missing two crucial pages.  They are now included and they make for interesting reading.
- more to the point - this, my friends, is a done deal. Without fanfare or real explanation, the district signed the MOA with UW, the Alliance and SEA.  Not good.  I can't believe the district signed up for this without any real notification (no less, asking for input) to parents/taxpayers for a huge new program with real costs that starts this fall.
- will TFA now go away from SPS?  Because if SPS is creating its own home-grown teaching pipeline, they surely do not need the cost/headache/under-trained TFA teachers.
- this Intro item would have the Board "pre-approve"  all these hires.  Before the program has any structure or bones, just pre-approve the hiring of 25 people. 

Issues with the Highly Capable Grant application:

- first, it's STILL not attached to the Intro item.  Not good.
- The Intro item initially said this:

The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs were discussed with representatives of an Advanced Learning Taskforce.
The taskforce completed their work and made recommendations to the Superintendent in the Spring of 2012.

I told the Board that was NOT true.  I offered that maybe because Ms Heath is new to her position or someone misunderstood Dr. Vaughan, this was written.

But the Taskforce did not review the application nor the management of "programs."

We also didn't "complete our work."

I also said this:

I will not stand by and have SPS history rewritten especially when I was part of it. 

I checked the agenda this morning and saw this part has now been rewritten:

The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs
were discussed with representatives of an Advanced Learning Taskforce. The
taskforce completed their work and made recommendations to the Superintendent in the Spring of 2012.

The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs are regularly discussed with representatives of an advisory committee charged by the Superintendent.

The committee includes parents, teachers, and administrators.

New taskforces will be convened in the Fall of 2013.

Each taskforce will consider and make recommendations around one issue related to Highly Capable Services. The initial task force will consider how we qualify Highly Capable students.  The second task force will focus on the specific delivery model.

So great that they changed the info on the Advanced Learning Taskforce.  But, I am not certain what "advisory committee" they are talking about now.  APP?  Because that does NOT cover all of Highly Capable/AL. 

I'm speaking at the Board meeting tonight.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bullying...with Food Allergies

Hard to believe, sad to believe but apparently this is happening.  From the NY Times (bold mine):

Any difference can set schoolchildren apart from their peers and potentially make them a target for bullying. But a severe food allergy is a unique vulnerability: It takes only one lunch or cupcake birthday party for other children to know which classmates cannot eat nuts, eggs, milk or even a trace of wheat. It can take longer for them to grasp how frightening it is to live with a life-threatening allergy.

Surprisingly, classmates may prey on this vulnerability, plotting to switch a child’s lunch to see if she gets sick, for example, or spitting milk at a child’s face and causing a swift anaphylactic reaction.

In a recent survey of 251 sets of parents and children with food allergies, published in Pediatrics in January, roughly a third of the children reported being bullied for their allergies. Parents knew about the threatening behavior only half the time.

Food Allergy Research & Education PSA on the issue.

Washington State Charter News Comes With Questions

Over the Washington State Charter Schools Association, they announced the "members of the inaugural Washington State Charter Leader Cohort."  

What's striking to me?

1) "...over two dozen applicants in a national search."  Two dozen over the entire country?  That's all?  Boy, I would have thought they would have droves.  After all, this is what they get:

Cohort members will receive coaching on writing a charter school application and board member recruitment. They will also receive a planning stipend during 2013-14, and a variety of support services, including travel to visit high-performing public charter schools, and office space.

2) Here's what they say about the selection process:

Representatives from parent, university, school district, and charter communities participated in the selection process.

It would be interesting to know what school districts but I certainly hope it wasn't anyone from Seattle School District.

3) Guess who one of them is?  Kristina Bellamy-McClain, the just-departed principal at Emerson Elementary School.

She's former TFA (of course) and the announcement of her as one of their "leaders" leads to one big question.

- These leaders will apply to lead high-quality public charter schools for underserved students in Washington state.

Really?  So maybe she's planning on taking OVER Emerson.  As a conversion charter.

She was principal at Emerson for two whole years and as anyone knows, that's five years in TFA years.  And, her Ex Director had been Bree Dusseault, another TFAer who did her stint in SPS and then left. 

The Board Evaluation

The evaluation was requested by the Board itself.  It was done by the Mercer Island Group and they apparently did interviews with the Board and Cabinet (with an additional online survey of the Board) but it is unclear to me what questions they asked or if they just used an attribute list for the respondents to vote on and then, asked for their comments.  (Also, Appendix Four isn't quite clear as to who made the statements in this section.)

(The cabinet consists of Jose Banda, Bob Boesche, Ron English, Michael Tolley, Duggan Harman, Pegi McEvoy and Paul Apostle.  I have to wonder what the Board might have said about how the Cabinet works but that was not part of this evaluation.)

I'll let you read the whole thing and be the judge.  But here are some thoughts (followed by what was said at the meeting):

- my biggest surprise was not the comments but the ratings the Board gave itself.  They were pretty low.  I have to wonder if it is really about morale or maybe about a few people trying to skew the results.  Or both.

There were 29 attributes - 18 had "meets expectations or higher" but not one had "exceeds expectations" or "outstanding."  They did best in areas of responsibility, maintaining a strategic plan and laws/regulations and communication protocols.

Their two highest scores for themselves?

-Uphold all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.
-Maintain a strategic plan for the district that clearly defines success and accountability for the Board, the staff, and our students.

Their lowest scores for themselves?  (Of the 29 attributes, 11 had a rating of below "meets expectations.")  They had the lowest scores for working effectively with each other, the superintendent/staff and communications.

- Is the Board working together effectively?
- The Board maintains a close relationship of trust with the Superintendent and strives to facilitate district success.

That last one was a surprise because I thought the Board was doing those things.  But, looking at what they think works and what they think doesn't work, you see a clear conflict.  Meaning, they feel they do well on communications protocols but not communications.  Hmmm.

They did have good marks for themselves (in unity except for one abstention - no idea who that was) with budget development, audit response and policy review.

So what did the Cabinet think of the Board?

Good - passionate and dedicated, focus on students, do homework/come prepared,making efforts to improve, in-tune w/community, respectful and appreciative
Bad - Board needs to address its dysfunctions, engage in "appropriate lines of communication and adhere to Policy 1620", provide a unified front/collectively define "the role of the Board",  and several others.

The overwhelming issue seems to be trust, both within the Board and between Board/Cabinet.

Washington State Superintendent Says No to Half-Days/Waivers

State Superintendent Randy Dorn throws down on half-days/waivers for school districts, according to a report from KING-5 tv.

Washington State’s school superintendent says he opposes the expansion of half-days on school calendars and wants lawmakers to act next year to give his office the authority to curb them.
“Just because the adults have the problem of not having enough money does not mean we should take away kids' instructional time,” Randy Dorn told KING 5.

“So they moved to this partial-day thing,” said Dorn. “I think it’s a burden on parents, working parents that have to do all the arrangements.”

“I don’t like the idea of waivers. I don’t like the idea of half-days for professional development,” said Dorn. “Especially the kids that struggle the most, it hurts them the most if we’re not in the classroom teaching.”

“The lack of adequate time for professional development, collaboration and planning is just one of the problems caused by underfunding,” WEA spokesperson Rich Wood wrote in an email to KING 5. 

Dorn said he hopes to change that next year by convincing the legislature to set standards for a minimum school day, likely six hours. “If there’s two hours taken off a school day, to me it wouldn’t count as a school day,” said Dorn.

Similar legislation -- Senate Bill 5588 -- failed in the regular 2013 session

In its ongoing series “School’s Out,” the KING 5 Investigators revealed the growing numbers of partial days that districts are adding. The reports also showed that waiver days, in which a district gets a state-approved exemption on meeting the minimum 180-day school year requirement, have grown by more than 300 percent in the last few years.

I had not heard about this bill so this will be interesting to follow in the future.  It's kind of a rock/hard place situation where we all want teachers to get the PD that they need but we also want a full day of class time for students. 

Tuesday Open Thread

 Update: Just wanted to say thanks to our readers.   There has been quite an uptick in hits to the blog and we appreciate the numbers and the input/comments.

Hearing about a phone survey about School Board candidates.  Anyone received a phone call?  If so, let us know what you were asked and if you were told who was sponsoring it.  (Gotta say, it's quite early for this kind of thing and for School Board races?  Someone out there must be quite serious about who gets on the Board to spend that kind of money before the primary.)

What's on your mind?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Spectrum Thread

This was requested as finally some Spectrum parents are understanding that Spectrum is very much on the chopping block.  Who knows?  As we speak Shauna Heath and Michael Tolley may have already done away with it (it seems they will be creating whatever Advanced Learning will be). 

If the district had allowed the Advanced Learning Taskforce to continue its work, we might have gotten to Spectrum and ALOs.  But maybe that was the point of NOT continuing on.

It may be too late and trying to organize and get any attention in the summer is a big lift.  But I would do it if I cared about Spectrum (no matter what its form at your school). 

Washington State Charter Commission-Mtg #3

I am obviously way behind on this thread as the next Charter Commission meeting is this week. 

It was held at the Technology Access Foundation headquarters in White Center.  Very nice building and great staff.  One of the Charter Commission members, Trish Millines Dziko, runs TAF and its programs. 

Chair Steve Sundquist, in his chairman remarks, stated that the Commission had sent a letter to the Board of Education.  The Commission would like to influence the BOE on the issues of timelines and fee schedules.  It appears they did get what they wanted. 

One, there will be a requirement of a letter of intent to apply for a charter.  This is great because it gives everyone a heads up to who is coming and where they intend to apply (either through the Charter Commission or a school district). 

Two, the timeline for extending the deadline for decision-making has been moved to Feb. 24th.  

The BOE rejected their ideas on the fee schedule.

Sundquist also pointed out there was now a Washington State Charter School Association.  He said "they have a different mission than we do" and that the WSCSA would have services for charter applicants.  He said he would recommend sending people there.  Interesting as I will wait to see if any other "charter associations" pop up and if the Commission will recommend all groups to people seeking charter help.

He said a budget for their work had been drafted (I haven't seen this).   Naturally, this is all contingent on what the Legislature does on the budget.

They then had a report on the search for an Executive Director for their group.  It was reported that they had received 14 resumes and reviewed 13 of them.  They stated they would look to see who fit the basic criteria, then drill down and then whittle that down to four to move forward and then three for review by the Commission. 

One of the members of the search committee, Trish Dziko, told the group that it was an interesting mix of people, some K-12 and some higher ed and she was a bit surprised there were not more applicants (but at that point, it had only be advertised for a little over two weeks).  I can confirm that the Commission has been interviewing candidates as this is what their website reflects.

It appears that Superintendent Dorn has offered space in the OSPI headquarters in Olympia for the Executive Director and his support person.  It is unclear what the financial arrangements will be. 

They then moved onto issues around proposed rules for their work.  They would like to work with authorizer school districts to create "consistent quality" of authrorizing.  They still do not like the idea that, in the first year, they could get so many applications approved that any number over the eight per year would then rollover into Year Two or even Year Three.

One member, Cindi Williams, said they want quality over "a timestamp" and there she was referring to the race to get approved charter applications to the BOE as fast as possible to get their timestamp which delineates the order each application came in.

They seem to want to move cautiously on their own approvals with Sundquist saying they might have "a small number of schools in their own portfolio."  It seems like their fear is approving charter applications too quickly and seeing more failure than success.

Seattle Schools Announces Community Meetings for New Buildings

From SPS Communications:
Seattle Public Schools will host two community meetings to present information on projects funded by the Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy. The levy was passed by voters in February 2013.

Wilson-Pacific Elementary and Middle School projects
These projects are to construct a new elementary school building and a new middle school building on the Wilson-Pacific site, both scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year. The meeting will be presented by representatives of Seattle Public Schools capital projects team and Mahlum Architects. The meeting will include information about the projects’ early design progress.

7:30–8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Wilson-Pacific Seamat Center
1330 N. 90th St.

New Thornton Creek Building project
This project is to construct a new elementary school building, scheduled to open in the 2016-17 school year. The meeting will be presented by representatives of Seattle Public Schools capital projects team and the architect and will include information about the project’s early design progress.

7–9 p.m.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Thornton Creek Elementary School
7711 43rd Ave. N.E.

Community members will be able to ask questions and learn more about the projects' scope, schedules, existing conditions and design explorations.

For more information, please visit: http://bex.seattleschools.org

I note that one meeting is for one hour and the other for two hours. I'll ask why that is.

This Might Be One Way to Keep Kids in School

There's a long interview - with questions by readers -  in The Guardian with Ed Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower.  It's good and I agree with the Stranger with this quote being the best (bold mine):

...it's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.

Info on Charter School Start-up Resources

Just so no one can say I'm not a good sport.

From the Washington State Charter Schools Association website:

The Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement has announced their 2013 grant process for planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools. 
There will be two webinars explaining the application process for the start-up funds:
  • One on Monday, June 17 at 12pm PST (3pm EST) to 1:30 pm PST (4:30 EST)
  • One on Thursday, June 20 at 8am PST (11am EST) to 9:30am PST (12:30pm EST)
To sign up for the webinars, please RSVP to charterschools@ed.gov. Applications for the grant funds are due on July 12, 2013. This is a great opportunity to learn about potential start-up funds and the federal grant process.
For more information on the grant application and program, please visit the following links:
I know some here have been wondering about trying to open a home-grown charter.  Based on my attendance at the Charter Commission meetings, I'd say good luck with that but yes, there are resources out there to help you.

That said, the Washington State Charter Schools Association does NOT give full information about charter law in our state and so, should be viewed with suspicion.  (Well, that and who runs it.  There are board members who are the usual suspects plus one press person but apparently no other staff that they care to name.)

Here's their deadline chart for more info:

Charter School Implementation Timeline

Sweet, sweet irony

A few days ago I wrote about the Board's role and how they are failing to do their job.

Today, the Seattle Times writes the same.

Funny thing, though, the Times and I have exactly the opposite ideas about what the Board should be doing.

The Times apparently wants the Board to do nothing but promptly approve everything that Mr. Banda puts in front of them. That's what Directors Chow, Maier, and Sundquist did, and what Directors Martin-Morris, Carr, and DeBell do. The Times wants a rubber-stamp Board - as if that isn't dysfunctional.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, June 18th
Audit and Finance Ctm meeting (quarterly audit mtg) from 4-6 p.m.  Agenda.
- exit conference from State Auditor on accountability
- internal audits include Kimball Elementary, custodial services/grounds, and Denny
- risk management
- ethics update

Wednesday, June 19th
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda.

- academic calendar for 2013-2014.  There appear to be two Options, A and B (the difference being PD waiver days in A and not in B.) They want the Board to approve both as the BOE doesn't meet to discuss the district's request for PD waiver days until July 12th.  The other difference is 2 days of TRI but different dates for A and B.  There appear to be two snow days at the end of the year in June and one they could use for the Day between Semesters.  And yes, there continues to be a full-week of mid-winter break.  It's unclear to me if this is a final from SEA.  
- the NWEA contract (MAP) for about $470k
- intro of an extension of Superintendent Banda's contract until 2016.  This is a one-year added extension to his contract which was to expire in June 2015.  To note:

This action does not change the Superintendent’s compensation. Discussions on compensation are being deferred until after the state budget is adopted
by the legislature and after the current contract negotiations with the
Seattle Education Association, Principals’Association of Seattle Schools and Local 609
International Union of Operating Engineers.
- approval of the Seattle Teacher Residency Students "contingent certificated contracts".  I note the MOU is missed two pages (4 and 5) .  It appears that the Alliance will be the employer for the Program director and staff.  
- increasing the 2012-2013 budgeted transfers from Capital Projects Funds to the General Fund by $3.3M.  This is for "certain technology related expenditures and certain maintenance/repairs." On the one hand, the "technology-related expenditures" is for "salary costs" but the maintenance money is for up to $800k of expenditures for summer 2013.  I like the latter.

Thursday, June 20th
Operations Ctm meeting from 4-5:30 pm. Agenda not yet available.

Charter School Commission Meeting from 10 am to 5 pm.  Agenda not yet available
Seattle University, Loyola 203

This is the last Commission meeting in the Seattle area until October.   The Commission has had several Executive meetings in June to interview Ex. Director candidates.

Board Retreat and Strategic Planning

Following up on Charlie's thread to the new (waiting for Board approval) five-year Strategic Plan, here's what I heard from the Board retreat where the Board and senior staff discussed it.  For some reason, only the goals are at the communications page on this issue but there are links to the vision/mission/core beliefs from the Intro item on the Board agenda page. 

To note: that Saturday, June 1st, saw a packed room of staff (most of whom stayed from 10 am to 2 p.m. - a big commitment of time) and Board members. Everyone came prepared to work and was in good spirits.  There was a feeling of a shared unity to this work. 

Once again the Alliance person sat at the table with Board and staff.  One funny aside is that I downloaded the agenda from the district's website.  It had only the district logo but when you got to the meeting, the agenda had both the district's and the Alliance's.  Just in case anyone thought the Alliance was just a helper at the retreats - they are not.

What was also interesting is that most of the retreat was lead by senior staffer, Clover Codd, who did a good job keeping people on target and on time.

Superintendent Banda gave a few opening remarks about the work done by the Strategic Plan Taskforce, noting their work of 20 hours over 5 meetings.  (I was told by some of the members that the Alliance had pushed hard to be on the taskforce and yet their rep missed two of those five meetings.)

I was a bit confused about the origins of this plan.  The consultant from Pivot said was based on "leveraging successes" of the old plan and launching off of it but later on, when I asked him about that statement, he said it was a new plan.  I couldn't quite reconcile those two statements and I don't have the time or interest in making a true comparison of the two plans.

Some serious talk came from Duggan Harmon, Ass't Superintendent for Finance and Budget, who said:
- it would be nearly impossible to cost out the plan's strategy or goals
- that there are not enough external funders and not enough money at Central and that "they would need to look at schools and the Capital budget" for more dollars.  That makes me very nervous and I would just say that you can ask almost anyone where they want the dollars to be and that's the classroom.  BUT he is right about the need for organization to implement all these new changes and coming changes (like Common Core).

 President Smith-Blum asked about using BTA dollars and Harmon said it may be possible.  There's another red flag for me as BTA becomes increasingly about academics and less about building maintenance.

Just as the Strategic Plan under Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was quite long and complex, so it is with this one.  I realize that they wanted to cover a lot in order to (1) make sure they didn't miss anything, (2) not hurt anyone or any department's feelings and (3) attempt to look equitable.

But, in the end, it's just a lot of paper and metrics and goals.  Good ones to be sure but this isn't what I would look for in a Strategic Plan.  I don't see an actual plan - what we want to do and what we do to get there.

(And they even missed some items like CTE and basic maintenance which I did point out to one staffer. I am deeply worried about the lack of inclusion of basic maintenance as we continue to bring more buildings on-line and yet don't dedicate real money to their maintenance.)

They talked about the need to monitoring progress and reporting it out to the public.  They want to "create the belief that this is what we are following" for their work.  Michael Tolley claimed that they had a comprehensive engagement plan last time but that fell apart because of budget cuts.  Maybe so but it wouldn't have been that hard to do basic updates and that just didn't happen.

They started with the mission statement and here it was kind of funny as the Board tried to wordsmith this thing.

Strategic Plan

The revised Strategic Plan for Seattle Public Schools is scheduled for introduction at the Board meeting on June 19 and for a vote at the Board meeting on July 3.

You can read it here.

The Board's Role

I went to Director Martin-Morris's community meeting on Saturday morning and the conversation was really good. It was good, in large part, because we stayed focused on things that Director Martin-Morris could do - we kept the conversation within the boundaries of the Board's role. We didn't ask him and his Board colleagues to make decisions that have been delegated to the superintendent or direct the superintendent in what decisions to make or to overrule decisions that the superintendent had made. But we did ask him to assure that the superintendent's decisions were compliant with policy (and law) and to assure that the superintendent's actions were aligned with the District's stated values. This is the Board's job, and, frankly, they haven't been doing it.

We got started down this path early when I used the word "transparency" and he asked me what I mean by that. These words get tossed around all the time, but they are never defined. We are both convinced that people are not working from a shared understanding of their meaning. I replied that transparency has three elements: 1) Everyone knows what the rules are. 2) Everyone plays by the same rules. 3) The data is publicly available so we can all see - for ourselves - that the rules were followed. He asked for some examples of when the District failed to be transparent. He got them: The old MLK elementary wanted to start a Montessori program and was held to an impossibly high standard - different from the standard set for other schools wanting to start programs. The planning for JAMS is being done differently from the planning for the new Pacific middle school. The district rejected a proposal to relocate the elementary Spectrum program for the Washington service area from Muir to Madrona saying that they had to put the program close to where the students live. There is no way that Muir is closer to the center of gravity for Spectrum students in the Washington service area than Madrona but the data used to make the decision was never made available.

There was a very productive discussion about the coming changes in Advanced Learning. We made it very clear that we understand that these decisions belong to Mr. Banda and his staff - not the Board. The problem is not the decisions they are making but the way they are making them. They are making them in secret without engaging any stakeholders. Not only is this contrary to the District's stated values of transparency and engagement, this process almost guarantees a failed implementation. We told Mr. Martin-Morris - and he seemed to really get it - that he has no business taking this decision away from them, but that he does have a duty to demand that they do their work openly and that they engage the stakeholders authentically and early in the process. As a Board member, he has a duty to be a guardian of the District's values.

We'll see if these seeds bear any fruit.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Parents, You've Got the Power

Great idea as we go into the summer vacation season from Jack FM Vancouver.

Is College Becoming Out-of-Reach?

An article in the Huffington Post about college costs caught my eye.

college costs

Over the past three decades, the inflation-adjusted income of the median American family has basically remained stagnant. The same can’t be said of college costs, which have simultaneously surged to almost unrecognizable heights, according to a new report by the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Costs at private nonprofit four-year colleges have increased by more than 150 percent since 1982, but the real trouble is at four-year public schools, where inflation-adjusted costs have experienced a startling 250 percent jump.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Center School Award from the City (and what McGinn Had to say)

At the Slog, they covered the mayor's award that The Center School received from the City's Human Services Coalition for student support of the race and social class at Center.  What is interesting to me is that Mayor McGinn stood very clearly on the side of the students and didn't mince words (bold theirs).

Because it’s the mayor's award, it was given by Mayor McGinn himself and accompanied by a signed mayoral proclamation, which said that "Seattle is battling inequality in our schools" and "we need to have more discussion in our schools about race, not less." It concluded: "I applaud the Center School Community for their dedication and perseverance, and I agree with them that the Social Justice Curriculum should continue at The Center School."

One more big statement:

A student said to the room: "We ask everyone in support of keeping this curriculum at Center School to come stand with us." And the banquet tables emptied, as virtually the entire room swarmed up to the front to stand with the students.  

We may never know the whole story on this issue and there is no one to blame for that but the district.  So we are all free to consider any scenario or motive that we want.  It is not enough to use vague wording to justify this situation and its outcome. 

It doesn't help students, parents or teachers if we aren't all clearly schooled on what the district expects in the classroom (especially if we are talking about teacher responsibilities). 

A black mark on the district.  Again.

Farewell to Pinehurst K-8?

Superintendent Banda has sent a letter to Pinehurst families about their school that leaves things pretty up in the air but on a downward trend. 

He tells the families that they had been considering moving Pinehurst to Broadview-Thomson K-8 but that it will NOT happen.  Pinehurst will stay where it is for one more year and they will have "discussions over the summer about the school's future beyond the 2013-2014 school year."

District, just pull the band aid off.  It might be kinder.

Want a "Teacherpreneur" Making Education Policy?

At the Times, Lynne Varner continues her string of unintentionally funny editorial pieces.   She starts out right:

If we’re going to talk about money, let’s talk about the future of teaching because nearly 80 percent of education spending goes toward salaries.

Okay, BUT when 22% of American children (and that's about the same here in Washington State) live in poverty and you ignore that fact, then you are missing a HUGE piece of the puzzle.

As well, most of the money may go to salaries but the Legislature is not funding schools enough to provide funds for other needs.  Your biggest and most primary need is always going to be a teacher.

She then says:

A recent Seattle Times front-page story pointed to a rapprochement between teachers and ed reformers at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Imagine if the two sides had been working together all along.

Well, I 'm sure the teachers (and their unions) would have been more than happy to work with Gates but he (and his minions) were the ones bad-mouthing teachers.  Varner knows this but is happy to make it sound like both sides ignored each other.

Then she gets to a TFA-push idea:

The future of teaching is foreshadowed by fledgling organizations such as Teachers United and the empowering rhetoric of “teacherpreneurs,” those ├╝ber-teachers who mentor and make policy when they’re not in the classroom.  

Really?  Like people who have 5 weeks of training, teach for two years and then are education "experts" who should make policy and run schools?  Nope.

She then talks about use of technology but leaves out the HOW that will happen in an organized manner?  She speaks of her son using the Khan Academy videos at home.  Great but how do you translate that to a larger scale?  She doesn't say.

She asks about future teacher training and curiously doesn't mention the new alt cert Seattle Teacher Residency program through SPS, the Alliance for Education, UW and SEA.   We want new and varied types of teachers?  Here's how to do it and yet she says nothing about it.

We rate and reward students based on performance. Why not teachers? 

Really?  How do we reward students' performance?  Does she mean by promotion or what?  Again, she tries to make a point without explaining it. 

It's frustrating to see such limited and unclear writing that will leave the average reader saying, "Sure that sounds good" without considering the how and why of what she suggests.