Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, January 7th
Work Session: Transportation Service Standards and School Start Times from 5-6:30 p.m.  No agenda/presentation available.

Should be interesting given that many want a discussion on school start times and staff seems to be pushing back mightily.   However, President Peaslee is not moving an inch on waiting to have that discussion.

Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council Meeting from 6:30 pm to 9:00 p.m., JSCEE Room 2700.

Wednesday, January 8th
Executive Committee Meeting, 8:30-10 am, Update- agenda

School Board Meeting starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda.
Please sign up to speak on student data privacy.  The district is NOT happy over the unilateral move by OPSI in their agreement with the Seattle Times for Seattle student data.  Let them know you want a robust policy with teeth (currently none exists).   Need talking points?  Contact me.

Once again, a mystery around a capital works project.  There is an Action item for final acceptance of Public Works at many buildings.

The claim is that - per the memo from McKinstry - that "There were no change orders for this project, added scope was completed using GMax funds."

One, that directly contradicts what is in the agenda item (as it notes there WAS a change order).

 Two, what is GMax?

Also, the "budget" says "motor replacement at 10 schools and pathway lighting upgrades at 15 schools" WITHOUT one location noted.  Just one lump sum of $1,294,021.  If this is what passes for accurate and adequate explanation of the spending of public funds, then color me unhappy.  (The agenda item states the schools but not the budget.)

If this is how our new Capital Director, Flip Herndon, explains capital spending, that's troubling.
Our capital dollars and how they are spent should be transparent and easy to understand.  This is not.

To note, there are two items in the agenda where change orders are noted.  One is this Public Works contract which says there was $223,638.00 in change orders.  The next is the roofing done at three schools that is noted at $476,443.00.  I get the cost coming from the roofing of Salmon Bay but there is still a mystery of why they found the problem and then did not correct it in time to NOT have to spend money on vast amounts of overtime.  I note that there is NO timeline to this action and that is quite suspicious.  No one wants to explain this and apparently the Board does not care. 

There is also an Action Item on the new Thornton Creek building that has some interesting wording that I have never seen before.

The SPS  Strategic Plan has been the source of the vision that will inform all future design process.  

The Generic Educational Specification document should be used as a "guiding document" that encourages design professional (sic) to explore creative solutions.  It should not be used as a "trapping document" that limits the design professional.

Since when does the Strategic Plan guide - beyond broadly - any capital building?  Odd.  And that second paragraph? I think it lays the foundation for trying to ignore any input the staff doesn't like.

I'm seeing someone's fine hand here but whose?

In the Intro items, there is one for accepting Race to the Top funding.  You look at the "Project 3 Timesline" which says, for example, that there would be a "Summer Professional Development Institute."  Okay, for whom?  Not noted.  In fact, it's not noted any where who this project is to reach in any defined manner.

Also, there is a $5,000 fund for "learning materials, coffee and pastries."  Well, how much of that goes for what because honestly, it looks like a slush fund in case extra dollars are needed. 

I also see that there is some kind of "Five Year Action Plan 2010-2015, guided by a diverse 16-member Partnership Group of SPS educators, early learning providers, staff from Seattle's Human Services Department, and the Office of Educaiton, the New School Foundation (now LEV) and the Gates Foundation."  Well, that's an interesting group, I must learn more.

And how will  this "accountability measure" be executed?  "We have developed outcomes and measures with assigned responsibility for measurement development and data collection."  Really?  And all those parents know this is happening?  I'd bet they have no idea their children's data is going, to whom and for what purpose.  

Also, the district appears to be using a consultant group, Reach Associates, and a woman named Cathy Feldman who "is an expert on Common Core State Standards implementation..."  So the district doesn't have its own CC expert?  She's also going to be instructing teachers on the "Six Core Habits of Teaching and Learning."

There's also an Intro item on changing the open choice seats at high schools.  I was at the Operations Committee where this was discussed and you know what?  This wording about "open choice seats" was not used and now I realize why I was confused.  Because I was pretty sure that was what was being discussed but not in that wording.

Here's my take; Open Choice seats, except for the lucky few, are gone.  This thing has been massaged and cut back so much that to say there are Open Choice seats is really just empty air.

There is also an Intro item about the Annual Capacity Management for next school year and, I believe, it is about buying more portables for more schools.  And yet, no supporting documents are attached.

This is one of the worst Agendas, as presented by staff, that I have seen in a long time.  It reminds of the Goodloe-Johnson days and that is NOT a good thing.  I'm going to hope this is because of a long holiday break and not a turn in the wrong direction.

Thursday, January 9th
Audit&Finance Committee Meeting, 4:30-6:30 p.m.  Update: agenda here.

Friday, January 10th
BEX Oversight Committee Meeting from 8:30 am to 10:30 am.  No agenda available (as usual).

Saturday, January 11th
Community Meeting with Director Carr from 8:30 am to 10 am, Bethany Community Church, across from Bagley Elementary (access from church playground). 


Anonymous said…
It appears the professional development is for preK-3rd grade teachers, as noted in the background information in the briefing report.

1. Designing and implementing a summer professional development institute for preK-3rd grade teachers in partnership with Highline Public Schools.

2. Utilizing former SPS Readiness to Learn Parent Leaders to recruit families with
preschool age children to join school readiness play groups, and to facilitate groups using
the Child Care Resources Kaleidoscope Play and Learn model.

3. Working within our system to refine our practices and conduct targeted early enrollment

Pre-Ks is OK
Charlie Mas said…
I see that the transportation service standards still includes this exception to the usual rules:

"Aki Kurose Middle School students are provided yellow bus transportation if they reside more than 1.0 mile from the school, as an exception to normal Middle School eligibility standards."

That's left over from the Southeast Education Initiative and was supposed to have been discontinued. Why is it still there?
Pre-K, that is true; I saw that. But it is not clearly delineated where it should be and the schools are not noted. The Board has a right to know this information as does the public.

Charlie, I wondered about that myself.
A-mom said…
Still no agenda for tonight's Work Session.
Does anyone know what's going on with grandfathered transportation?
Last year they decided to keep it, because the cost of portables for neighborhood schools would have been too high.
mirmac1 said…
The budget for this Race to the Top grant can be found on Pg 29 here.

Here are a few major problems:

* Despite the grant stating clearly that there is SPS "in-kind" contributions including staff time, this is not shown on the budget. As we all know, these CCER/Alliance/LEV pet projects consume a lot of staff time. The budget document is misleading. Previous Road Map grant apps list all "in-kind" cost elements and, if the board is asked to approved this (per policy) then it needs all the information.

* Our district's participation in Road Map is contingent upon sharing our students' data with CCER.

* It is very difficult to glean what is what re: these projects unless you know the secret website

* The preschool "partners" are already "institutional service providers" and have direct access to student data via SPS' Automated Data Reports. Although district procedure calls for parental consent, I have never been asked for consent to hand my child's data to the YMCA.

* The grant app cites sustainable funding thusly "We will work with the school principals in our target schools and encourage them to apply for City of Seattle levy funds... (I)f principals see positive change they may be open to reallocating Title 1 or LAP funds towards these efforts." RMP does NOT offer sustainable funding, what will happen is SPS will cannabalize other programs to sustain these efforts.

* The effectiveness of this project will be gauged by 3rd grade MSP scores (cheerily provided by OSPI). So we will not discern any result until these Pre-k kids are in 3rd grade!

* These projects must be closely scrutinized. We see that the Alliance's Seattle Teacher Residency pet project was NOT brought before the board, despite exceeding the threshold for grant approvals. That effort will ultimately cost SPS $700K per year in five years.

I can't attend Wednesday's meeting. I hope someone can address this issues.
Anonymous said…
I'm going to stick up for Herndon a bit here. The guy's been on the job for what, four months? His perspective is probably looking forward, and not really backward. The project that you're hammering him on here was awarded in February, 2011, and completed in April, 2013. The opacity of his predecessors is probably being carried through the system on inertia, and I can easily imagine that he doesn't have the details of this project on the tip of his tongue. If he continues with the record of opacity, that's a different matter. But excoriating him over a project that he's merely trying to get final acceptance of I think is poor form.

A-mom said…
Transportation Work Session presentation for tonight.

Nothing about costs,such as additional portables for neighborhood schools when sunsetting grandfathered transport for schools.
mirmac1 said…

I would tend to agree with you on that.
Fremont Dad, I'm not complaining about the work done, I'm complaining about transparency of the presentation.

That he can do. That is what we need in SPS.
Anonymous said…

I'm certain he can do it. Should he? Does he know that the projects in the pipeline are being judged thusly? Is it reasonable to expect him to care as much about this information on a project that he had little to do with - one that McKinstry claimed work was complete in the 2Q of last year?

I think he has many much bigger fish to fry than past projects that are in final acceptance stages, and I want him to be looking at those newer, more current projects. Yes, the metadata on this project in this milieu was lacking, but I don't see the reason to start putting black marks next to his name for it, unless it continues under projects he initiates or has some major involvement in.

I think your expectations here are unreasonable.

Again, you miss the point. A budget shows ALL the projects and each one costs. If you bothered to look, the "budget" is one pile of money. Not helpful, doesn't set a good tone.

Anonymous said…

Anonymous said…
No, ma'am, I do not miss the point.

To answer another question of yours, a GMax project is a project that has been bid with a guaranteed maximum amount. This is why there was no change order – the money had already been allocated for this project, McKinstry finished the initial work so far under the budget they had set that the district was able to use these allocated monies to do additional work. Thus, there were no change orders for the project management side (to McK, it was a change in scope), and the only change order from the billing perspective was a deductive change order for -$223,638.00 to match the project’s new total cost to the lesser amount of money that McKinstry was asking for. The contract that the district signed with McKinstry gave them the right to change the scope of work at the district’s discretion to stay within the project budget.


Anonymous said…
My understanding is that the funds for this project came ultimately from an OSPI energy efficiency grant in 2010. OSPI requires districts with a capital improvement fund to use that fund in between OSPI and the contractor. So, the budget really isn't "one pile of money", and if you had bothered to look, you'd have found that. (Enter 'Contract K5003' without the quotes into Google; MAGIC!)

When I first read this post, I thought I’d be helpful to the discussion and try to find out what the facilities were that were covered by this project. I did this by searching for McKinstry’s Intent to Pay Prevailing Wages, which is on file with L&I. The Intent was interesting, but not for the reasons I figured it would be.

What I found most interesting was that the bid was due and the contract was awarded on October 15, 2010. The Intent was received by the state on February 2, 2011, and it was approved five days later. Interestingly, it listed the location of work as “Seattle, WA 98124”. McKinstry Essention hired two other McK divisions, McKinstry Co. and McKinstry Electric to work on this project, and they also filed only one intent each, probably because the same woman filed all three, and all three show “Seattle, WA 98124” as the work location. McKinstry Co.’s Intent was filed on June 23, 2011 and McKinstry Electric’s was filed April 4, 2012.

After work is complete on a public works project in Washington, you have to file an Affidavit of Wages Paid. So, I looked up the affidavits to see if they listed all of the locations, and all of them also only give “Seattle, WA 98124” as the site address. While the affidavits weren’t helpful in that regard, they were helpful in another; all of the work was completed by September 3, 2012.

So, McK reports that their work was complete in September of 2012. But your post says,

“If this is what passes for accurate and adequate explanation of the spending of public funds, then color me unhappy. (The agenda item states the schools but not the budget.)

If this is how our new Capital Director, Flip Herndon, explains capital spending, that's troubling. Our capital dollars and how they are spent should be transparent and easy to understand. This is not.”

The comment about Herndon intrigued me, so I started looking into who he is, and I found an article in the Times telling me that Herndon was taking the capital, facilities and enrollment planning post, and it was dated August 12th, 2013, a full eleven months after work was complete on this project, and three YEARS past the date in 2010 when the monies were allocated – by the state - for this project. And that’s when I decided I had to speak up.
Because, yes, I know how budget planning works. I’m in that kind of industry that I would need to know that. I’m also on enough boards and committees of things that I see how inertia gets carried over, and that once something is referred to a certain way, it stays that way, even if it is wrong and should be fixed. That’s not Herndon’s fault. OSPI’s restrictions on their grant management also aren’t his fault. And if you want him to do better than has been done in the past with capital planning reporting, mayhaps you should inquire with him directly rather than assassinate his character on your blog.

Anonymous said…
Finally, this is a list of the locations of work for this project:

Replace inefficient motors at:

• Blaine K-8 School
• Boren Interim School
• Broadview-Thompson Elementary School
• Maple Elementary School
• Rainier Beach High School
• Aki Kurose Middle School
• Washington Middle School
• Whitman Middle School

Install lighting controls at:

• Adams Elementary School
• B. F. Day Elementary School
• Bryant Elementary School
• Coe Elementary School
• Concord Elementary School
• Franklin High School
• Gatewood Elementary School
• Gatzert Elementary School
• Hawthorne Elementary School
• John Hay Elementary School
• Leschi Elementary School
• Olympic View Elementary School
• John Stanford Center
• Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
• West Seattle High School

In case anyone is still reading and is still interested.


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