Sunday, May 18, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

A very quiet week - for some reason - with just one event.  There are no director community meetings (and again, why can't they space them out so that there is at least one every Saturday - there's three next Saturday).

Wednesday May 21st

School Board meeting.  Agenda

I note that the recognition this meeting is not for staff or students but for a departing Alliance for Education staff member.

Under Superintendent's comments on staffing for 2014-2015, it is noted that there are no reductions for either teachers or classified staff.

Action items
The first one that jumps out is the BAR for the Network Upgrade and Wireless Access.  The amount - coming out of BEX IV - went from $6.5M in the original BAR to $9.6M.  (The BAR reports that $9.6M is the amount in BEX IV for this purpose but I think I will have to go back and review the BEX IV amounts as money seems to be being spent at an alarmingly fast rate.)

Reading this BAR (and the Timeline summary), I see some real issues in how this was handled.  Why was there so much change and confusion with multiple challenges to the district process?

There was also this somewhat vague concern over use of antennas:

Since the selected product utilizes 4 antennas and radios, SPS investigated to determine if the
addition of a 4th radio and antenna resulted in additional health concerns. 

As of the release of this BAR, we are unaware of any additional health concerns. 
There's also a tortured explanation of the bidding process.  There were three rounds and, for various reasons, the district modified its selection criteria with each round.  It says that no company protested the RFPs in the first two rounds but says nothing about the third round.  Three (3!) bidders have submitted protests; two denied and one decision is "imminent."  The BAR says this doesn't stop the Board from voting yes but rather for the Superintendent to have to wait to execute the contract. 

Note to Board: don't approve anything in flux.  Just not a good or sound business practice.  

Once again, in discussing the Board's options on how they might consider voting, Option 4 says they could do nothing but that isn't advised.  However, they don't mention that the district HAS to have this technology in order to give Common Core tests.  Odd that they leave that out.

- Approval of the construction contract for Genesee Hill.  
This would be fine except that the contract now has cut about $700,000 of costs without any explanation.  What changed?  I also note the contract is not signed by the company nor does it have any amount listed in the contract.  

Introduction Items

- K-5 Math Adoption.  
As I previously stated, there is just one math curriculum in this BAR and it's enVisionMath from Pearson.  

It also appears that staff wants every school to align to this new curriculum.  I would think schools could still apply for waivers but if the Board passes this BAR, it would be much harder.  The district - which did not have an inequity problem before with the waivers - now says it is inequitable.  

There was a minority report filed by one member of the Math Adoption Committee, teacher Sabrina Kovacs-Storlie.   She mostly was unhappy with the rush to get the work done but said this:

Our guiding principles were based entirely on common core alignment. Regardless of your individual opinions about common core, the CCSS is not a curriculum, is not proven or tested, and in all likelihood will be replaced, rewritten, or revamped in the near future. Why is the district using rubrics that are based on unproven policy with zero statistical support?
Good question and her report makes for good reading about issues that may come back to haunt the district. 
- Changing the policy on P.E. 
This is great, given what we learned from the KUOW reports about how SPS is not in compliance with state law on P.E.
But while the BAR says this change is necessary to be in full compliance with the state law, it provides no funding to do so.  So P.E. is great and important for many reasons but the district is not going to fund what is needed to fully implement it until they find the money someplace.  Oh.
- Sacajawea South Playground Self-Help project
This is to create a new playground to replace the old one and take care of landscape plantings "int he renovated wetland area."  What is remarkable here is that the PTA did this to find the $470K for this project:
Sacajawea Parent Teacher Association applied for and was awarded numerous grants to implement this project: $100,000 City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Matching Funds; $262,000 City of Seattle Parks Department Opportunity Fund; $60,000 King County Youth Sports Facility Grant; and $40,000 Sacajawea PTA.
The district is kicking in $9K as a match for the King County grant.

What is really telling is this:
The playground renovation project will include: Removal of the existing worn play structure and border-surround (which is imperative for placement of a new double portable to address capacity issues.) 

So not only is Sacajawea PTA finding most of the money, making the space better for both school and community, helping the space be more environmentally sound, they are also helping the district find space for a portable.  

The district should be very, very thankful for this kind of "gift."  

- Contracts under the Families and Education Levy

There are twelve elementaries to be funded.  I note the funding of South Shore continuing and I just have to wonder why - if they get almost $1M a year more than other elementaries with high F/RL populations.  (South Shore is also receiving funds for their middle school.) 

There is a "TBD" for the hiring of Family Support Workers in elementary schools.

In case you ever wonder about what the F&E levy does fund for health services (partial)
  • Maintain current 20 school‐based health centers at 10 comprehensive high schools, the Seattle World School/NOVA, five middle schools, and four elementary schools.
  • Implement new elementary health services at four elementary schools. At this time, these are scheduled to be Bailey Gatzert, Dearborn Park, Van Asselt, and West Seattle Elementary.
  • Strengthen mental health services at SBHCs.
  • Provide health support funding for 7.0 nurse FTEs. At this time, portions of nursing FTEs are to be allocated to the following schools where school based health centers are also operating: Cleveland, Roosevelt, Rainier Beach, Franklin, West Seattle HS, Ballard, Ingraham, Sealth, Aki Kurose, Washington, Madison, and Denny.  
And again, health services are available to ALL students at the school.   This is a remarkable effort by the citizens of Seattle to invest in our students and it is not the norm in other cities. 

- Rubric for Superintendent Evaluation/Board Evaluation

I see for Common Core that the Superintendent is to make sure that the curriculum, etc. are "research-based and aligned."  Well that's fine except that Common Core standards aren't even research-based.  

The Board rewrote the "accountability" portion of the rubric and I find it weaker than the previous one. 

- Transfer of funds from BEX IV to Wilson-Pacific to fund K-8 space
As I noted, it is hard to believe it will only cost about $700,000 (including playground) for this effort.  And yet, to add an auditorium would be $12M.

- Approval of contract for North Queen Anne Elementary School renovations
The BAR states:

Seattle Public Schools has negotiated with Northwest Center August 31, 2014, as the date to vacate the building. 

So NW Center will be out of the building but the timeline for this work is unclear.  But, Cascade Parent Partnership will be moving in September 2014. 

1 comment:

mirmac1 said...

The portables at Sacagawea are for two new developmental preschool classrooms.