Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quarterly Program Placement report due today

Today is July 31st, the due date for the quarterly program placement report.

I was recently reminded of an email I sent to the Board at the end of January in which I asked about the status of the program placement process and the equitable access framework - both of which were overdue then. I was reminded of that email because I just saw it among the documents sent to Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times as part of a public disclosure request about all email traffic between Director Smith-Blum and Mr. Banda in January.

Director Smith-Blum forwarded my email to Mr. Banda and asked him:
"Just fyi below, and it is accurate - would love to have an update on the EAF - program placement - so we can start to get on top of the process and comply with the policy. Is it possible for Aleta to set a date for us and whoever else might be appropriate in the conversation so I can determine where on the Board calendar we might need an entry point in the plan as well?"

Here we are, six months later, with no progress on the program placement procedure or the Equitable Access Framework during the past six months. I don't expect the quarterly report on program placement to be any more compliant with the policy than any of the previous reports - which did not meet the requirements of the policy.

This work has been passed around like a hot potato. The last person to have the job was Phil Brockman. I don't think anyone has it now.


Jon said...

We have a new superintendent now, Banda, but the same failure to follow through on promises and to comply with policy.

Why is that? Is it that the superintendents are powerless to correct it? Or that they don't care to?

Charlie Mas said...

I once had a boss who would ask me to do things. Some of these projects required a great deal of work. I would take hours - if not days - to produce a report, he would glance at it, say something like "Yeah, I thought it would be about that" and then toss the report in the recycling. A significant number of his project requests were frivolous. He just had a passing idle curiosity about something.

So I stopped doing work the first time he asked for it. Three-quarters of time he forgot that he ordered the work and didn't repeat the request. Sometimes the request wasn't frivolous and he really did want the work done. In those cases he would ask about my progress and I would start work on the project then - on the second request. Of course some of those were still just his idle curiosity and not actual need.

The Board has a long history of making frivolous demands of the staff. Think of all of the times that the Board asked for something, the staff promised it, time passed without delivery, but the Board never followed up. The staff has learned not to do anything for the Board until they ask a second time. It has saved them a lot of time and effort by not doing a ton of work that the Board didn't really need.

The problem isn't with the staff or the superintendents. The problem is with the Board.

If the Board only ordered work that they really needed then the staff would do everything that the Board asked. Because if they didn't the Board would follow up until they did.

The staff would comply with the policies if the Board demanded their compliance. The Board has no problem with non-compliance so the staff doesn't bother to comply. The staff is behaving rationally. The fault lies with the Board.

Because nearly all of the Board's requests for work are unnecessary and quickly drop from interest and because the Board never enforces policy, the staff ignores it all. The Board never follows up on any of them because they don't really care about any of them because none of them really matter. The Board never enforces policies because they don't know how. They have never done it and they no process for it. Also, as with the projects, they don't really care about them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One, this is something I thought the staff said they wanted. Did I get that wrong.

Second, I had an interesting conversation with Peter Steinbrueck who, as I have mentioned previously based on my interview with him, cares deeply about SPS.

I mentioned this very issue and he said they did have some of this on the Council when he was there with a few departments. When they got the message that the Council either wasn't so interested in THEIR interests and/or the Council might have to pause on some funding requests, apparently things got done.

The Board, afraid of that "micromanaging" tag, now just won't call the staff on items that are crucial to the Board's duties. It's just wrong.

Jon said...

I see, thanks, Charlie, that does make sense, the Board, not the superintendents.

That does make me think, again, that the Board should focus its attention and limit its work, focusing almost exclusively on policy and legal compliance and detailed audits of the budget.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but nowhere else to ask: does anybody know the status of the district's correction actions to comply with OSPI on special education? Comply or lose $11mil.

OSPI rejected the district's proposed corrective actions that were due on June 30th.

The issues are not just about paperwork as one of the central office admins is putting out (mccrath smith). One of the advocacy organization has pulled together a good analysis of the OSPI findings. Could somebody please post that. It shows that the OSPI findings are far from mere paperwork minutia.


Anonymous said...

I'm also interested in special education program placement. And, what the new CBA is saying about teacher ratio's. Do we have a new CBA or not? Where are the new special education programs? Last year they tried to open a bunch of them in fall, but didn't get the supplies until November. Pathetic. Plus, you can't open a single new program in a building - unless you've really got an experienced teacher.

Wanting Answers

Charlie Mas said...

I've asked for a copy of the report, but have not received one yet. Nor has it been posted to the District web site.

Charlie Mas said...

The report was issued by Michael Tolley on July 23.

Like all of the previous report it fails to meet the requirements of the policy.

It lists these changes for the 2013 - 14 school year:
* Closing SM 2i at Montlake Elementary
* Opening SM 4 at Montlake Elementary
* Closed SM 2 at Leschi Elementary
* Opened SM 4 at Leschi Elementary
* Opened SM 4 at The Center School
* Closed grades 9-12 at Cascade Parent Partner Program (very low enrollment 9-12)

While the report says:

"The changes that were made were in collaboration with Special Education, Enrollment Planning, Human Resources, Transportation, and Budget departments, as well as Principals."

No community engagement was mentioned so we can conclude that none was done.

The policy, however, requires the superintendent to:

"Engage stakeholders in a timely and publicly visible manner by informing, involving, and/or consulting with them as appropriate, and consider their input in the decision-making process when feasible;"

The Superintendent is also supposed to document, in writing, the relevant factors considered and the basis for each change, but there are none in the report.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about Cascade's High School program. I've kept it in mind as a back up plan for one of my kids.