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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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.

I wrote to Mr. Tolley, the primary presenter at the work session, asking him for the current definitions for School, Service, Program, and curricular focus. I told him that the District has created a great deal of confusion with these terms. Some entities which meet the definition of one are classified as another. I also asked some specific questions:
  • APP at Lincoln - is it a school or a program?
  • STEM at Boren - is this a school? Is it a program? Is it a curricular focus? 
  • International Education - is it a program or a curricular focus?
  • Language Immersion - is it a program, a school, or a curricular focus? In addition, it is confused with International Education which is a separate sort of thing altogether.
  • Option schools - are clearly schools, but they also appear in Growth Boundary presentations as programs and they fit the definition of a curricular focus in SP 2200. What are they?
  • Montessori - are clearly programs and, in accordance with District Policy and SP 2200 should equitably accessible but there is no effort to create equitable access to them. Why not?
Mr. Tolley did not respond. Instead, I got an email from Ms Heath saying:
"Michael Tolley has asked me to share with you Superintendent Procedure 2200sp that provides the definitions you have requested."
This sparked a very sharply worded reply from me. I told Ms Heath that I had read the procedure and the definitions therein. I asked if she had read them. If she had, then why would she have presented all of these at the Growth Boundaries work session as if they were all programs when, clearly, many of them are not programs. In fact, the document she referenced specifically identifies STEM and language immersion as curricular foci. Of course, if they were programs, then the superintendent would have absolute authority over them. The authority for the location of a school, however, is at the Board level, and schools have authority over their curricular focus. By trying to represent them all as programs, the superintendent and his staff were trying to usurp control and authority which is not theirs.

This is it, folks. This is the sort of misinformation and deception that erodes trust. When the senior staff intentionally misleads the Board about what is a school, a program, and a curricular focus and when they do it with shifting definitions for education jargon, they are performing the type of actions that erode trust. When they refuse to be transparent in this way, they are performing the type of actions that erode trust. When they intentionally confuse International Education with language immersion, they erode trust. When they say that Spectrum has a consistent delivery model, and it is "one year ahead" (as Ms Heath did yesterday), they erode trust.

The presentation made to the Board yesterday was a fundamentally dishonest presentation. Only the parts delivered by Dr. Libros were honest and correct. Everything else was a lie delivered with the intention to confuse, mislead, and deceive.

So they talk about wanting the Board's trust on June 1st, but they make an inherently dishonest presentation on June 25th. That's how sincere they are about trust.

13 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

My take is that there is a power shift going on and some are trying to consolidate power. And, I think some of them - mistakenly - think that they have Banda's endorsement. Not so fast.

The district always powers down in the summer (JSCEE is a very quiet place) and yet a lot of behind-the-scenes things happen. Some there count on parents going away, then coming back into a new school year and being busy with student concerns, and then whammo! a new wave of "gotta get this done."

It's important to push back.

mirmac1 said...

Charlie, I don't think the confusion is intentional, I think they really don't know the differences themselves.

I believe Banda's faith in Tolley and Heath is missplaced. If they cannot communicate without lapsing into jargon, well that tells you something right there...

And I don't blame you for getting pissed. Tolley and Heath's response was a piss-poor one.

Charlie Mas said...

When you explore the District's culture of lawlessness you will see that no one in Seattle Public Schools begins their work with a review of the relevant laws, policies, and procedures.

So was it simple incompetence at work here? Was it the culture of lawlessness that made Ms Heath and Mr. Tolley skip a review of the procedure?

I don't think so. These presentations are a big deal. After the presentation Mr. Banda spoke about all of the work that the staff put into it. These things are not just whipped off in a single draft. They are written carefully and thoughtfully. The staff claims to be intentional in their communication. Ask them about it and that's what they will say.

So when they choose to use the wrong classifications for things, when they use the wrong jargon - jargon that they created, we have to assume that those choices are intentional and purposeful.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I have another thread that expands on this topic in a very specific way: HR.

Anonymous said...

For special education families:

1. Slide 14 continues the District's practice of obscuring where INCLUSION knowledge and INCLUSION experience and INCLUSION OPPORTUNITIES exist at middle and high school levels.

2. Slide 15 now characterizes the new models of service delivery that are set for 2014-2015 as "pilot implementation" -- that is a new wrinkle.

3. Slide 16 (all slides on this topic, actually) does not define "intensive" services.

And there is no discussion of "highly capable" as inclusive of students with disabilities (yet again).

concerned reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, it was acknowledged that there are twice-gifted learners but it was just that - an acknowledgment.

mirmac1 said...

That's the rub. Parents are made to choose. Get the services your special needs child requires, or place them with their intellectual peers. It's one or the other.

Anonymous said...

Huh?? I have a 2E child. Enrolled in APP. Check. Has an IEP. Check. Receiving special education services. Check. In fact, sees two different teachers, a special education certified teacher as well as a therapist. Check.

You're a assertion about having to choose is false.

Repeating misconceptions on a blog does not contribute to a productive dialogue.

Readers, please get the facts straight before forming opinions. Perhaps speak to principals of the schools where APP is located to get accurate information.

– Accuracy please

Anonymous said...

Accuracy please

You MUST be in the vast minority of families of special needs students who are 2E. We are one of these families, and we know many many others. We are definitely forced to choose. I am surprised that you are not more conscious of the vast inequities in this situation and the true apathy of most principals in regards to it.


2e family with 1e options

Charlie Mas said...

Once again we see that services that should be available equitably across the district are, in fact, highly dependent on the leadership at the school level.

When is this District going to get it together and assure students of the services to which they are entitled?

mirmac1 said...

Accuracy please, I base that on conversations I have with a number of special ed parents. Guess we haven't chatted. I'm glad your child is being served. Perhaps I overstated the issue, but there are concerns about the status of our 2E students.

apparent said...

I posted the following on Charlie's 12% thread above, and also repost it here because the same issue is raised and I think it's very important:

Please do not falsely assert that SpEd and APP are mutually exclusive populations, a statement that is untrue both under federal law and as a matter of fact. Any highly capable student with a disability has a right to be included in APP if it is their least restrictive environment provided he or she meets the same eligibility requirements as all classmates. Depending on the nature of the disability, accommodations or supports may be required either in the testing process or in the classroom, or both, as identified in the student's IEP or Section 504 Plan. I write this as the parent of an APP kid with a Section 504 Plan, and in another currently open thread the same point is being made by the parent of an APP kid with an IEP.

So again, please do not repeat this silly shibboleth that APP and SpEd are mutually exclusive student populations. Not only does this misrepresent the diversity of APP students, it sends a false and discouraging message to other SpEd parents not to attempt testing in, requesting any necessary accommodations in the testing process or the classroom.

Anonymous said...

The slide is plain wrong about all special education services being available at all middle schools and high schools. It says SM2 and SM4 services available at all high schools. But what are SM2 and SM4 services? They are nothing at all. SM2 and SM4 simply denote a staffing level and nothing more. 9(students):1(teacher):1(aide) for SM2, and 8:1:2 for SM4, SM1 is 22:1. Each teacher runs her own SMx program according to tradition. Some are inclusion programs and some mandate from the district, some are self-contained, some are pimped out to general education (meaning, the special ed teachers are really just teaching general ed classes and so their ratio just means the special students don't get special ed). The district doesn't really want to disclose "services", because then it would have to place special ed students where the services they need actually exists. Much better to just place it anywhere, and forget about what the student needs. If you call it SMx, then you have that flexibility to NOT meet needs. Parents in the know, who figure out what services are really available, and who figure out how to make a school really tell you that they will not meet their child's needs, will get placements at other schools who do provide the service. But, for the board - it's just so much easier to lie about it, and say that "all schools do everything". Most notably, most schools do NOT do inclusion for SM4 students. Concerned reader is completely right - inclusion opportunity are purposefully obscured.

-sped parent