Thursday, December 04, 2014

Board Meeting Wrap-Up

- I note that Nyland and Blanford were chatting before the meeting.  Nyland said something to Blanford and Blanford nodded and said, "Yes, let's get this nonsense over and get to work."  (No I wasn't eavesdropping; the room was fairly empty and Blanford's voice carried.)  Sorry that Blanford thinks that discussion over the selection of a superintendent is nonsense.

Superintendent Comments

- said that "work continues" in asking schools for their lunch/recess schedules and "needed adjustments for lunch."  He said "recess is more challenging" and it's not in the policy and needs work re: CBA.   He also said the use of so many portables at elementary schools is a "lunchroom challenge." 

He said that bell times/lunch/recess all overlap and there could be short-term and long-term options. 

Two points on that statement - he's right but beware of the "long-term" solution that is promised but never comes

Second, it is my perception - and that of several other activists - that the bell times and lunch/recess folks have certainly got their message across in a way that many groups before them haven't.   I think for lunch/recess parents it's a pretty simple message - my kid isn't getting the time to eat AND kids need active time. 

There was a presentation about the Native American program.  One issue - a long-time issue - is that the 506 form that needs to be filled out by parents/guardians doesn't always come filled out correctly (and the district cannot fill in any info even if they know it).  Martin-Morris asked why this is.

The answer was interesting - it would seem that some of the parents/guardians are suspicious about filling out yet another form and giving more information to the government.   So it would seem some trust-building is in order.  Huge challenge there, I would think.

- Nyland tried, again, to explain the official enrollment count and staffing adjustments.  I heard nothing new here except that he said there were 6 instead of 7 schools that got a decrease.  I guess since Hazel Wolf solved their problem, they were no longer on the list.

Public Testimony

Again at a Board meeting, at least 15 Garfield students and parents came, with signs, to protest the loss of their teacher (and possibly, the Latin program with it).   The ASB president said they wanted a student rep on the Board.  I told him later that there is supposed to be and he should ask the Board office directly.  (Peaslee later mentioned this and said it was being worked on.  Forget going thru channels,kids, apply directly to the Board.  They NEED you.)

They spoke about how Latin is a benefit when taking tests like the SAT, one student said she enjoyed it and it was a benefit to her college application and still another said she had thought of suicide and Latin was one class that kept her going.  (I'll note that the district has just hired two new "project managers" at about $125K each.  When JSCEE wants a new person, they get it.)

Also Kris McBride, an academic counselor at Garfield, spoke eloquently about supporting the district's request to delay the 24-credit grad requirement, citing the huge lift it will require.  But she also carefully laid out how losing one teacher ripples through the entire scheduling system. 

Kate Martin offered an interesting idea for superintendent - hire Nyland as sort of the steady Eddie superintendent and get things settled down, look for a new superintendent Year two and Year 3 keep BOTH superintendents with Nyland mentoring the new person.   (If Nyland is appointed, this is pretty much what will happen sans the last year.  McLaren endorsed the last year part and and all I can say is "where's the money for two superintendents?")

Chris Jackins also noted that the district has filed, in December for years, a data profile.  He said none was filed last year and wonders if one will be filed this year.  He had also compared CSIPS (which were filed last night) and found a number of oddities in Beacon Hill's.  Wonder what's happening over there - the cheating issue and now a nearly identical CSIP to last year's?

Laura Gramer, a deaf parent advocating for her children and the deaf and hard of hearing community, has been coming to the last several Board meetings to speak.  She said communication is very important and it feels like, listening to the conversations, that the district is stuck.  She said she was not sorry for making anyone uncomfortable.

There were a couple of speakers about the Growth Boundary changes around Dearborn Park.  It was pointed out by parent Julie van Arcken that the dual-language schools in white neighborhoods are option schools and the ones in non-white neighborhoods aren't.  Another speaker, Maiko Winklter-Chin, talked about relocating kids from Bailey Gatzert to Lowell.  The issue is that many of these students are Chinese speakers, either immigrants or refugees and there is concern that they won't get the supports at Lowell that they have at Bailey Gatzert.

Then we had the entertainment that was the community against the relocation of Interagency.  They had taken a whole first row with signs; there were about 8 people.  Only one person had dropped off the public testimony list and the first person on the waitlist was a substitute teacher who spoke about the challenges of being a sub.

That ended public testimony at 20 speakers.  But when President Peaslee said they were done, the Interagency people asked why testimony wasn't going until 6 pm.  Peaslee said that wasn't how it was done; it was by number of speakers.  The group got upset and talked back to the Board for about two minutes.  (It was not clear what was said but they were mad.)

Another activist and I turned and looked at each other because, in the past, if you talked back to the Board like that, Security took you out.  We were very surprised that it went on even that long.  They left, muttering over their shoulders, and then took up a conversation out in the lobby with Pegi McEvoy.

Board Comments (in brief and partial)
Patu - regrets that students at RBHS apparently vandalized a nearby grocery store after learning the Ferguson verdict.  Said students were not given enough guidance but that they needed to learn from that lesson not to allow their feelings to be taken out on others.

McLaren - She took Latin and loved it.  Long talk about how hard staff had worked on enrollment numbers and saved a teacher at Roosevelt and that the "decision on staffing is made in the building."

Blanford - also took Latin.  Also, said that he thought he would not have a community meeting in December but is after all on the 20th.

Harium - mentioned that on MLK,Jr's real birthday that 500 classrooms across the country will be doing a "real day of learning" and hoped some SPS classrooms would participate.

Peters - had concerns over Garfield's scheduling issues, thanked Meg Diaz for her work on the enrollment numbers that she had presented at the last Board meeting, and said the superintendent search IS about community engagement and that can't be pushed aside.

Carr - said her community meeting location will likely change in Jan.

Peaslee, in remarks that she did NOT make over the weekend, tried to explain the superintendent situation.

She said:

- they were not trying to "pull a fast one" or curtail public engagement
Embedded in the Board agenda, with no press release or notification on the district website on a holiday weekend, is information about the most important decision you make as directors?   Not a fast one?  Then I don't know what would better qualify.
Not curtail public engagement?  Ditto.  

- She says this vote was triggered by the idea that the hiring of the search firm was to start in November but the Board decided to wait until after the superintendent's evaluation.  That's fine but why didn't they mention this during the weekend?  She said it would have been difficult to find a search firm after the evaluation review because "there's only one Board meeting in December."  Well, that's convenient.

She said, "We had very little choice on this vote" and made it sound like the week between the Intro and Action was a gift to the public.  She said, "You can send e-mails."

She also explained it was absolutely typical to do a contract in an intro/action.  I'll look into it (because I don't think that's entirely true) but I note that Peters, later on, said this is true for superintendent but AFTER a process or during an emergency.

Again, there would be almost zero public engagement except for this blog sounding the alarm and some media outlets willing to write about it.  (I still note the silence of The Stranger, Crosscut and Publicola.)

They then voted for officers with Nyland acting as chair.  There were only single nominees for each office.  Blanford, in speaking of McLaren, for Member at Large, said she was a consensus builder.

It is Carr for President, Peaslee for VP and McLaren for Member at Large.  I have always thought that Sherry Carr would be a great Board president.

Then we came to the discussion about the Superintendent.

Peaslee and McLaren kind of tag-teamed with reading Nyland's resume and it was long listening.

But Peaslee also said several other things:
- the Board is "legally charged" to hire the superintendent and can change their minds anytime

- she said there was a "swirl" of allegations about the Gates grant.  No, actually there is not.  It is discomfort over the facts of what happened.  I don't recall (and I've never said) that he did it on purpose but the fact of the mistake is the issue.  She went so far as to call Marysville's Board to ask about how they handled grants.

I can only say, "Superintendent Nyland, welcome to the big leagues."  I understand he has been in smaller districts but he is now in the biggest district in the state.  He didn't think anything was different with huge grants coming in?   And, as Sue Peters later pointed out, she didn't understand how he didn't have the instincts to wonder about this himself. 

- Peaslee said he will "solve problems."  In four months here, he has "taken on Sped and headquarters culture."  I don't know who she is talking to but I don't think the Sped parents are any happier and I know the culture at JSCEE hasn't changed much at all.

- She claimed we were "lucky that he stepped out of retirement."  Well, he may have been retired from being a superintendent but he has been working for a consulting firm since he left Marysville.

Then we had the curious case of Marty McLaren schooling us all on when community input should be used and what shouldn't.  Apparently, not in superintendent selection.  She said that the "public engagement cannot affect the Board vote."  I have no idea what she means because the Board gathers information - from all directions all the time - mulls it over, discusses with colleagues and then they make their professional judgment.

The place for input is something like bell times, she said.  Oh.

Maybe she'll give us a list of what qualifies for public input so parents and community don't waste their time in the future with issues where she won't consider input.

Carr seemed to think she, too, needed to run thru the laundry list of turnover.  (I'll note here, as I did in my Board comments, Marysville had the same issues.)  She said a surprising thing that I confess I must have missed her saying before - that the financial difficulties in the district are the fault of the turnover situation and so is the disproportional discipline issue.  

Peters pointed out that a false choice was being set up -either a massive search or nothing.  (And she's right - I wonder at the lack of imagination elsewhere on the Board.)

Then when they got to the vote, McLaren says that Nyland "has sketched out a plan that can position us to overcome our challenges" in two years.  Please, show us that plan.  She said he has "galvinized staff." 

Patu basically said Nyland is a good guy but felt the four months was not enough time.  She said "we have always involved community" in the decision.

Martin-Morris said, for him, it's critical to move "large systems forward."

Blanford said he was "deeply troubled and conflicted."  He said there were reasonable arguments on both sides and he would take advantage of input.  I found that, coupled with his decision to have a Dec. community meeting after all, interesting.  Almost as if he was trying to be less confrontational and perhaps a little more thoughtful.


Anonymous said...

In four months here, he has "taken on Sped and headquarters culture."

Anyone have CLUE what she is alluding to here?


Anonymous said...

If the SPS board thinks they have 2 years to fix SpEd they are sadly mistaken and are completely out of touch. You have until June 30th 2015 and not a day more. The district is setting itself up for paying for thousands of students NPA placements and outsides services.

It's quite possible SPS is already out of time. We shall see what the next DOE audit finds. DOE has evidence that SPS can't make the June 30th deadline and DOE should move to take over all district finances and install their own personnel in key leadership positions NOW.

"taken on Sped and headquarters culture."

I hope everyone understands the SpEd problems are NOT isolated to SpEd staff. Most of my children's issues have been due to General Education teacher's failing to follow an IEP, there's not much anyone in SpEd can do about it because they do not have authority over the school buildings or staff. The building level SpEd staff get it and are screaming for help and unless someone teaches GenED teachers what SDI means and enforces it we are going to lose many great SpEd teachers.

SpEd problem is letting SPS legal and Tolley dictate procedures write IEPs and try and dance around the IDEA.

Now that OSPI and DOE are on to their dance/deception Tolley sends his report out to ask for mercy and pity because he has to meet with auditors and doesn't have time to make the necessary improvements to provide FAPE!

Broken record

Anonymous said...

Since most SPS general ed teachers never read their students IEPs the likelihood that the system will be fixed anytime soon is laughable. The SEA is part of the problem here. It ain't in the general ed contract and spelled out they ain't doing it. Anyone heard/seen Knapp lately? Isn't the SEA VP a SPED teacher? #duckncover

Will Nyland fix SPED? Will Wyeth fix SPED? What qualifications other than climbing middle management ladders does Wyeth have anyhow? Let's just ask ourselves: Is McWilliams still on the payroll?

Ooooo. The Feds! The state! For all the drama will anything really change this year beyond more and faster paperwork? Hardly.

How about the gaping number of unfilled SPED teaching positions. Which ones now have qualified and effective SPED teachers in them? How's that HR department working downtown? LOLCAT

How about the Transition program? The RISER program. The Access program. How will the Resource Room students do on the tougher state tests? Reality Check on Aisle One please!

The district can't even contact all its families to let them know highly sensitive private material went public.

And Peaslee and McLaren think Nyland's just great on the issue of special education. So great that they aren't interested in public feedback. They ran on "more public in public education" and tossed that bromide right out the window last night.

Does SPED PTSA or SEAAC have any parent power to make more or faster changes? Have we seen an uptake in participation or effectiveness this year?

Let's not kid ourselves. SPED in SPS sucks. It did, it is, it will. Suck.


Melissa Westbrook said...

At this time, Nyland says they are on time with their reports to both the Feds and the State re:Sped.

We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Does last night mean Mclaren and Peaslee aren't running again? I find no reason for their actions other than they want to put someone they like into office before they quit. I mean this seriously not snarkily.

North of 85th

Rufus X said...

Meanwhile, over at the no-to-Interagency petition, there is much harrumphing and pearl-clutching over last night's perceived snub:

"We were shocked!"

"We stood up, said this unbelievable, disgraceful, this is about safety for our children, that we've emailed them, how dare they, we then walked out."

"This is disgraceful. They are afraid to hear us speak on this topic ..."

Melissa Westbrook said...

To note: the folks who are being fairly aggressive in their actions over Interagency do NOT represent the majority. In fact, a different group is working towards understanding and welcoming for Interagency. It appears to be a coalition group trying to organize the Queen Anne area schools and community leaders to talk about how best to work with the district for best outcomes for all.

A counter-petition has now been started (link to come) in support of this effort.

Anonymous said...

I watched the SB meeting on TV, and could see that there was something going on after public testimony, but it was difficult to tell who was talking back to Director Peaslee.

I'm also surprised Security wasn't called to escort the offenders out the door.

Maybe it wasn't disrespect, but a true lack of ignorance on their part? Maybe they didn't know that the public doesn't get to speak during School Board meeting (except for during public testimony)?

Did anyone happen to document the episode on cell phone video?

Also, is there a petition that has started in support of locating the recovery school at QA gym?

- reality check

Anonymous said...

I just love the word harrumphing. Thx RufusX ! :)

Meanwhile, there it a petition support of Interagency.. which I was pleased to sign.

And John Hay's staff are in support. As is the staff at QAE.

Hay letter in support

Petition in support


Anonymous said...

Rats, link fail. Trying again.

Petition in support

Letter in support

mirmac1 said...

SpEd parent engagement and collaboration has gotten significantly worse under the Nyland regime.

Furthermore, I see considerably less transparency and some really ham-handed lying.

Wyeth had two years teaching SpEd and 6 months as interim leader of Sped in Olympia SD, a small school district.

Anonymous said...

Yes. It feels like less transparency and more BS. I'd like to see some specifics re: what Nyland has accomplished so far here, in Seattle--not what he accomplished elsewhere, and not vague statements like "great leadership skills." If the Board is so impressed, why don't they try to give us some actual evidence to convince us as well? I'm open to being persuaded, but I need some help here... Do they have evidence that things are going better here under his leadership, or is it just wishful thinking (or not wanting the hassle of a search)?

Half Full

Anonymous said...

Well I would love to know what the Substitute said after that appalling article in the Times but as Subs are nothing more than day labor to be abused, used and ingored it is good to see the consistency here.


Notecard said...

"Let's not kid ourselves. SPED in SPS sucks. It did, it is, it will. Suck."

Yikes. That broad brush tars a lot of us special education teachers who work like dogs, do our jobs right and care tremendously about the students in spite of adminstrative problems.

We need to differentiate between the adminstration and the line workers who are doing a great job.

If you're saying all special ed. teachers suck then you have no credibility.

RosieReader said...

Katydid, Can you just cut and paste the link, then we can copy and put it in our browsers? I would love to link it to Facebook and to encourage everyone I know to support this important option for kids facing a real challenge.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Sub,surrounded by fellow subs, talked about their challenges and the challenges in paying them. Director McLaren gave them a shout out (I believe she, too, had done sub work at one time.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rosie,


Shrug said...

"Also Kris McBride, an academic counselor at Garfield, spoke eloquently about supporting the district's request to delay the 24-credit grad requirement, citing the huge lift it will require. But she also carefully laid out how losing one teacher ripples through the entire scheduling system. "

McBride is a respected individual in our community. She went into great detail that loosing 1 class..meant that a particular student would have to rearrange FOUR other classes.

One student had already included this class on their college applications, and others need language classes to graduate.

Sadly, McLaren and Blanford offered lip service. Peters was the only one that made sense, and made a plea to support and prioritize our students. Surely, they can find some money...somewhere.

Shrug said...

Shall I bring up the $14K on the prek junket? What if those dollars were used to fund the Garfield teacher?

Elephant's Memory said...

Peaslee's and McLaren's actions in regard to the hiring of Nyland is nothing less than shocking and disgusting.

Let's take a look at these two directors. McLaren disliked the math curriculum and wanted the board to listen to her; she filed a law suit to be heard. Peaslee, was upset when there was an attempt to fire Principal Floe; she managed a petition and 900 community members signed-on. Peaslee, similar to McLaren wanted to be heard. Both of these individuals ran on the promise of listening to the public.

The Strategic Plan requires community input to foster trust.

There are LARGE swaths of groups that have not had their voices heard i.e Seattle Council PTSA and the Principals Union.


Anonymous said...

"One student had already included this class on their college applications, and others need language classes to graduate."

The Superintendent should write a letter that can be included in any college applications. The letter should explain that while the student was enrolled in the class, mid year budget cuts lead to the teacher being cut and subsequently the course was canceled.

This circumstance was beyond the control of the student who relied on the District to provide the course and the teacher. It was in the course catalog, probably over enrolled (Latin is a popular class at GHS)and poof is gone. This not only affects those kids taking Latin. It cascades right down the line. This is inexcusable.


cmj said...

Mary, I doubt that the superintendent would write such a letter because it would require him to paint the district in a bad light. Bad PR. However, if the cut occurs (fingers crossed), then the students should ask their college counselors to write an explanatory letter to the colleges (still bad PR for the school though, so some might refuse). If that fails, they can go to the (then former) Latin teacher for a letter.

I vaguely remember something similar happening back in 2003-2004 (?), when a number of teachers were cut due to the budget crisis. As a result, there were fewer sections of certain college prep classes. High school students asked someone high up in district administration (McWashington, I think, but am not certain) to write a letter to colleges explaining that students hadn't been able to get into certain AP classes due to no fault of their own. SPS declined, saying that the course offerings hadn't changed from the previous year.

The Queen Anne group forming in support of the Interagency students is lovely.

Charlie Mas said...

Ted Howard one year wrote a letter for students who were denied access to a college prep class due to budget cuts. It was a black eye for the District but it polished Mr. Howard's reputation with the Garfield community.

Charlie Mas said...

Integrity and principles are funny things. Everyone claims to have them right up to the moment that they cost you something. But you don't really have either of them - regardless of your claims - until you pay for them. Until you give up something you want to keep your integrity or principles intact, you haven't demonstrated either.

Directors Peaslee and McLaren may claim to support community engagement, but that support is just lip service until they give up something they want to provide it. As with previous Boards and Directors, your support for community engagement means nothing until you vote against a motion that comes without engagement.

I have seen Board Directors violate every espoused principle when something they want more comes along. Director DeBell used to go on about the Board leaving procedures and management to the superintendent, but he dictated the program placement of APP and you should read his Instructional Materials Waiver policy - it's all procedure.

Anonymous said...

NoteCards: FWIW, I applaud the many SPED Teachers and IAs that support our students day to day and making some programs work despite lack of support from building leadership and the central office. The state of special education in inexcusable because of a lack of ownership, knowledge, and moxie within building leadership and a devil may care or apathetic attitude within the central administration. I don't see any value add coming from JSCEE and very few building leaders seem to know the law and rights of students when in comes to SPED. That or they do and it's just too much work to push against the JSCEE machine and so they choose the path of least resistance and opt to short students and teachers.

-Enough Already

mirmac1 said...

Mr Howard did not ask for mitigation funds to prevent this cut. Poof, polish gone.

Anonymous said...

Director Peaslee has NOT had a community meeting in the last 8 months. Even if she starts again at this point who cares.