Live Blogging from Transportation Work Session


I stayed about an hour (of the hour and a half allotted for the Work Session).  It was mostly a complete waste of time for all involved.  (I'll check and see if anything definitive finally came out but I doubt it.)

Here's the upshot -later start times for secondary schools is NOT going to happen for next school year, 2014-15.  It will likely not happen for 2015-16.  The issue is that no staff person can give any real idea of how much time it would take for all this "research and community engagement" they believe to be necessary. 

It is clear staff does not want to do this.  I do not believe they think it worth the time and effort (Banda's early statement notwithstanding that no one disputes the merits of changing bell times).  I'm not even sure they believe there are good academic outcomes to be had. 

Now, Mr. Wright was once again quite diplomatic and careful to state that it is not that they DON'T want to do this but that they have too much to do.  Another project would have to get cut (and resources moved).  He also noted that some people are new and still getting up to speed.  Superintendent Banda noted that most of them were not here in 2008/09 when there were discussions around this issue.  Sorry, but coming in new does NOT mean you do not find out what was on the plate before you got there.

I am a bit astonished by the pushback on how much work it would take.  I think staff feels quite exhausted (rightly so) from the Growth Boundaries outreach and, well, the blowback from it.

The Board, on the other hand, is much more pragmatic (to varying degrees).  I believe all of them think this should be planned to be discussed.  No more "we'll get to it X year."  No, they want a real date and a timeline a la Tracy Libros kind of timeline.  But they had quite different things to say.

From my notes:

Discussion of Hale and its current late start:  Director Carr said she had an athlete at Hale who almost failed a class because of missing a lot of her 6th period class.  This was a bit confusing as Pegi McEvoy had just gotten done telling the group that Hale has an advisory 6th period just so athletes who have to leave don't have these problems.  No explanation was given for the disconnect.

McEvoy also pointed out transportation costs for athletes and possibly how that could be affected by a time change.  Well, if Seattle went back to the Metro league (another long-term "got to get to that" discussion), those transportation costs would go way down.

President Peaslee said that she would like to see the numbers on how many students are late and/or miss first period because of the early start times.  She also said there was no community engagement on changing bell times for next year so why is it so much more vital for later start times for secondary schools?

Banda said that it was because most of the bell time changes for next year are 30 minutes or less.

Bob Westgaard of Transportation said that the three tier plan would probably not see costs change but that a two-tier plan would.

Then Michael Tolley said that the "1080" was an issue.  He said that 7-12th grades had to have 1000 instructional hours.  President Peaslee pointed out that a time change would have no affect on that but rather it's the schools who have early/late release days that would have that issue.  Charles Wright then said it could also affect professional development time. 

Director Carr, as usual, cut to the heart of the matter.  She said (and I'd have to see this to believe it) that when they were discussing this back in 2008, everyone seemed on-board until the elementary parents got wind of it and that she had more e-mails than she received even for school closure/boundary changes. 

She said that her "ask" is that they get to someplace where the staff is accountable to hold this discussion and not keep kicking it down the road. 

Director Peters said she had read the two articles included in the staff presentation and then looked up more.  She found one - by one of the same authors - that was a longitudinal study of districts that HAD changed and found that they could work through the logistics.  The point is that no one is saying it is going to be easy but yes, it can be done. 

President Peaslee agreed and stated that the reason the Board did not call this out as one of their priorities was because it had already been stated - years back - as part of the work that staff had before them.

Director McLaren said that she didn't get the impression that it would be expensive to flip bell times.  But she said figuring it all out could take a lot of staff time.  She said that they needed a plan to fit within the next 3-5 years.  She said that it did not appear that anyone on the Board was trying to stop or slow this down but that all agreed it needed to be done correctly.

Director Martin-Morris said no one was discounting the research but that wasn't the issue. He talked about the financial constraints on the work already before staff.  He said he could not support little kids standing in the dark. 

Director Blanford said he was swayed by the discussion at the Operations Ctm meeting about the many "unknowns."  He said they needed to do "analytical" research and set priorities.

Director Patu said they had been around this topic since 2008 and it was time to resolve it.  She said she had seen how students at RBHS had done better getting to school with an 8 am start.  She also noted that there were already small kids waiting for buses at 7:30 am so that it was not going to be startling to many parents to see these changes.

Director Carr went back to the pragmatic.  She said they still had an on-going budget deficit and had asked Transportation to find efficiencies.  She said they could not change to something that would cost more.  But she also said this work needs to start.

President Peaslee stated that one way to save money would be fewer bus stops and more hubstops.  She said students would get more exercise and the district could have fewer stops. 

There was a bit of a push-pull (but gently) by Directors McLaren and Peters over staff ability to do this.  McLaren insisted they needed dollars to hire a consultant and Peters thought if they were looking to implement long-term, staff could do the planning.  McLaren adamantly said no, they did not have staff to do this work.

My analysis is that the Board is a yes to getting to planning to consider this idea but staff will not do it until direct to do so and told what work to pause on in order to consider this initiative.  

My take is that it is dead for the foreseeable future.  I can see the passion from Peaslee and Peters (along with Patu's impatience) but I don't see any real interest from McLaren, Martin-Morris or Blanford.  Carr seems to care but I don't know if she will push this or not.

End of Update.

Superintendent Banda is putting down to the assembled Board members about how difficult it would all be to do this.  "No one disputes the merits of changing bell times."  Which is a weird statement given he said they need to do research on this issue.

One thing I can say is that parents have done the research on why this is a good idea.

As to the logistics, that is indeed the district's job.

I also am hoping that Meg Diaz or some other savvy person might investigate the district's on-going claim that administration is at 5%, down from 9%.   There are a lot of open positions and a lot have been filled and I find it hard to believe they are at 5% (unless they had reorganized so that there are fewer people recognized as "administration).  I would warn the district that playing around with these numbers can (and has,in the past) backfired on them.

Super just said he would not recommend delaying start times for high school for 2014-2015.

I do find it odd that the Superintendent is doing most of the presentation as this doesn't seem to rise to the level of needing him.  But I suspect staff wants a united front.

It was noted that most of the changes to bus schedules will be between 5-10 minutes, none more than 30 minutes (Laurelhurst, for example, will change by 20 minutes).

Now they are getting into the back and forth and it is quite interesting.


Jon said…
On challenging the only 5% of budget for admin, didn't we all look at that before and come the conclusion that the district had just shifted some jobs to be classified now as "support"?

You can see the budget here. Page 47 shows that teaching is only 64% of the budget. Page 337-338 provides more details and also is worth a look.
Steve said…
Has there ever, ever been an accounting for the cost savings Transportation has posited every couple of years when changes are proposed? They always say its saving money, but I never see the accounting.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the updates, Melissa!

Here's a great site re. the benefits of later start times, as well as information about the districts in 25 other states that have already made start times later for middle and high school students. These districts report an increase in test scores, an improvement in attendance, and great attentiveness in class.

In our own area, Raisbeck Aviation High School starts school at 9:00, Nathan Hale HS starts at 8:30.

Let's face it, SPS staff has been stalling on this for YEARS. Each year there's another "reason" why the conversation has to be delayed...again...Enough is enough.

As per the site, "The health, safety, and equity benefits to starting middle and high school at times more in sync with the sleep needs of students are irrefutable." We can't justify any more delays on implementing this change.

-sps parent
Anonymous said…
With Roosevelt, Ballard & Garfield moving to 3A sports division next year it would be possible to change high school start times with less impact on sports. Hale is 3A & they have later start. They can compete closer to home.

-hs parent
Lynn said…
Here's a link to the draft 2014-15 start times for all schools.

The proposed transportation service standards are 45 minutes or less for attendance area elementary and K-8 schools and 60 minutes or less for all other routes.

The first stops for Pathfinder, JAK-8, Salmon Bay and TOPS could be as early as 6:35. How does the board feel about those kindergarteners standing in the dark?

I'd like to see the actual cost (net of state funding) of high school transportation. What would be the additional cost if we had a 9:00 start time for all high schools?
Unknown said…
Thanks, Melissa!
Just to clarify, grades 7-12 will need to receive 1080 hours next year and grades 1-6 will need to receive 1000 hours. (You have it a little differently in your update.) This means no ability to have late starts or early dismissals for professional development. This will cause problems with providing for professional development.
Anonymous said…
Hale's last period is reflective scholarship or mentorship so I really don't see how an athlete could almost flunk a class for missing this period.

I didn't think Roosevelt could go 3A because they are too big.

Anonymous said…
I take that back, my kid's 6th period is a class but there is a 7th period that is mentorship, reflective scholarship or reading. It usually starts between 2:20 and 2:30.

Anonymous said…
We have heard that Garfield and Roosevelt are definitely going 3A next year, which I don't understand either since they are much larger than other 3A schools in the city. It will change sports seasons around (ie: Boys Tennis in Spring instead of Fall and girls swimming in Winter instead of Fall).

Maybe they will be able to compete better. They consistently get whomped on by the Eastside 4A schools.

-GHS Parent
Anonymous said…
Hale is a 2A school and competes as 3A. Same as Ingraham and others. Ballard is 3A and competes as 4A. Roosevelt is 4A size so I don't know how they will be allowed to compete 3A. You can compete up but not down. I don't know about Garfield. I know that Roosevelt is just barely over.

Hale is really going to get whomped in gymnastics because Ballard and Roosevelt have spring floors. Hale already gets whomped because by Bainbridge because of this. Gymnastics parents have been pushing for a spring floor for Hale (Ingraham practices there too). Spring floors decrease injuries and level the field.

Anonymous said…
I don't think this thread relates to sports leagues....

jus sayin'
Just Sayin', I does and I mention it in the thread.
Josh Hayes said…
Yeah, the relevance is that athletics is often mentioned as a reason we can't start HS later, because RHS has to compete against other 4A schools, which are largely on the east side, necessitating a longer bus ride to the venue. (So time gets eaten up in transportation, see.) If RHS drops back to a Metro league, with concomitant shorter transportation times, that objection loses a lot of oomph. I have been told in the last two days (by people who oughta know) that RHS will in fact be 3A next year (not sure how that gets accomplished, but there you are).
Anonymous said…
Okay, the whomping comment threw me...

jus sayin'
Anonymous said…
So how did Hale change their bell times? Is the strategy then (since it's clear this is not going to happen in the next five years at the district level) to work at this at the school level? Is there another approach to offer a zero period so families can choose not to send sleep deprived kids if they choose? This feels pretty hopeless at this point. Just like middle school and high school math. I better stop myself now before I get too depressed!

-Another SPS parent
Hale was able to do so for a couple of reasons.

One, it was during a time when schools had much more autonomy.

Two, Hale wanted to be able to have more late start days and that would have been problematic starting at the earlier time.

Three, Hale had no yellow bus service so it made it much easier for Transportation.
Anonymous said…
@ mary griffin, 1/8/14, 5:21 AM:

I see the same assumption you make here being made in many contexts. That if we make all scheduled school time instructional, we will hurt teachers who won't have professional development. It's apples and oranges. The state mandates the amount of instructional time that must be provided. Districts then simply CHOOSE to scrimp and not pay teachers to work much more time than that. Districts could quite well set working time for teachers, including extra days before and after the school year, to provide ample professional development--they would then have to pay teachers more of course, which they are loath to do.

-- a mom (no, I'm not a teacher)
Lynn said…
I don't think it's that the district is loath to pay teachers, it's that our legislators are unwilling to provide the funding to properly run our schools. Yes - we should pay teachers for more time spent in professional development. What do we cut then?
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