Seattle Schools This Week (and This and That)

With the district being effectively closed, here are some items of interest.


Family Connectors University, starts Jan. 12th. 

The Family Connectors University program is a ten-week series of adult workshops that is designed to empower families with information on how to navigate the school system, how to create a college-going culture at home, and how to support their child’s, and other children’s, academic success.

New School Lunch Menus Link.

Over the past three years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put in place many guidelines to help students make healthier choices in the school cafeteria, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This year, in addition to further changes to the meal standards for breakfast and lunch, students will see changes outside of the school cafeteria as well. Food and beverages sold from vending machines, student stores and fundraisers will be affected by the new "Smart Snack" regulations.   Flyer with all the details.

Hazel Wolf K-8 at Pinehurst.  Work will start on this building in January.  Interesting, though, they call it "K-8" as I thought the plan was to make every new building include a preschool.  I'm sure the City is hot on the trail of this one.  (And speaking of the City and preschool, we'll have to have a discussion about what the Governor is proposing for early childhood and the City's plan.  I'm wondering if many there are too many plans afoot that may compete rather than compliment each other.) 

 Enrichment Opportunity for Girls

Girls on Ice is a unique, FREE, wilderness science education program for high school girls. Each year two teams of 9 teenage girls and 3 instructors spend 12 days exploring and learning about mountain glaciers and the alpine landscape through scientific field studies with professional glaciologists, ecologists, artists, and mountaineers. One team explores Mount Baker, an ice-covered volcano in the North Cascades of Washington State. The other team sleeps under the midnight sun exploring an Alaskan glacier.

The application period for the 2015 Girls on Ice Teams will begin December 10, 2014 and end on January 31, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Alaska time.

Alaska program: June 19 – 30, 2015
North Cascades program: July 13 – 24, 2015

To be eligible, girls must be at least 16 years old by June 19, and no older than 18 on July 24.

Looks like President Obama is a feminist.  First, he ignores labels and puts ALL kinds of toys into a bin for Christmas presents for girls.  Like science toys, balls and Legos.   Then, he breaks his own previous rule (when offered a football helmet, he declined to put it on) and put on a sparkly tiara with some Girl Scouts.  (This was taken in June but the White House photographer decided to save it for the 2014 Year in Photos.) 

Kids in Poverty, from the Washington Post.

Earlier this fall, the Census Bureau reported that child poverty in America is finally declining for the first time in more than a decade. But while the national trend is ticking down, in many parts of the country — particularly the South — poverty rates for kids are still above the national average and higher than they were before the start of the recession.

According to new Census data out today, poverty rates for school-aged children in 2013 were still above their 2007 levels in nearly a third of all counties, many of them clustered around metro areas in California, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina.


Watching said…
The district plans on using levy dollars to close the opportunity gap after McCleary is funded. Will those dollars be used to expand prek?

I've always thought that the city's prek program adds additional layers of bureaucracy to a existing federal and state programs.

Has the city's newly formed Department of Education provided information regarding buildings, capacity and placing 2000 children?

Lynn said…
I'm not sure the district should rely on receiving levy funds once McCleary is funded. Given a choice, it's not the organization I'd choose to be responsible for managing extra funds and using them to close the achievement gap.
Lynn said…
The December 19th Friday Memo has been posted. It includes a discussion of the recent security breeches, the concerns of Native American parents (among others - they want the district to provide transportation to Licton Springs K-8) and a recap of the Queen Anne/Interagency meeting. The 100 day plan for communication and customer service is also available.

I find his notes on the legislative session interesting. The increased funding for class size reductions is going to require increased expenditures from local levy funds. (Our pay scales exceed the amount provided by the state.)
mirmac1 said…
I stumbled across some interesting documents relating to the SPS' RC-CAP. They seem to indicate pretty &%$#@! poor progress towards the 6/15 deadline. Who'da thunk that writing some basic procedure for staff to use with respect to special education would be so goldang hard!

So how are we doing?
Anonymous said…
SPS has no chance of making the June deadline. In the past weeks several CC decisions have come down against the district. The violations are so egregious that I would expect provisions are being made right now for the FEDs take over in the next 60 days.

End isnear

Okay, End is Near, you do mean takeover of Sped, not the district, right? I don't think you can take over an entire district based on one program.
Unknown said…
I spent several hours reading the documents supplied by mirmac1 concerning the Revised Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan for Special Education in Seattle Public Schools.
Comments in random order on the documents posted by mirmac1:

1. I would agree with End isnear that SPS has not made its deadlines. I am not sure this means that the Feds are going to take over, I do think it means that OSPI should withhold funds. I feel like SPS has been disingenuous about OSPI findings. OSPI has consistently been unable to verify the compliancy rates claimed by SPS on IEP's and Evaluations. This has been the problem for the last five years. Why haven't they fixed this by now?

2. Student numbers and discipline numbers are still unreliable per OSPI. This is again an area where we continue to hear a lot of false assurances that the problems from last year's move to Power School have been fixed. The problems continue, affecting state reimbursements, planning, and more, as well as a general lack of transparency around the issues concerning enrollment and discipline.

3. The Seneca Family of Agencies's model is something called Unconditional Educational Partnerships. I have never heard of this model. But even after reading over 100 pages of mirmac's records. I still don't know what it is. They do talk about the fact that they received money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work with charter school development in WA state using this model. This is kind of scary. I hope that they were not responsible for the debacle of special education at First Place charter school. I want to know what is the deal with the Tom Alberg and Robert Nelsen, "local parents" who are helping to fund the "partnership," and I want to know why and how they are acting as advisers with this project. If they have been so concerned all along, they should have said howdy sooner. How much money does it take to act as advisers? Up until now, Bill and Melinda Gates have given little shrift to the notion that they should care about the outcomes of students with disabilities, and I am very suspicious.

4. I do like the fact that Seneca recognizes that these students have outcomes that aren't very good, including lousy graduatin rates of around 50% and that these students are part and parcel of the opportunity gap. TIERS refused to even talk about statistics or outcomes. Good luck to Senceca in getting OSPI, or anyone in the education reform community, including the Road Map Project, whom they hope to partner with, to recognize that fact.

5. Someone spent a lot of time developing a rather nice family friendly procedures model draft BUT it was not the procedures model that the RC-CAP was supposed to produce, which was an INTERNAL procedures model. OSPI was not happy.

6. There are a lot of December 31 deadlines on the RC-CAP. I suspect and hope that there are lots of SPED administrators and others who are scrambling around right now.

7. Seneca Family Services is advertising on Craigslist for a Special Edcuation Coordinator, a Director of School Partnerships and a Clinical Intervention Specialist, all of which seem to have at least a minimal connection to SPS. They seem to be in an expansion mode for Special Education in Washington State. I see this more as the whole state being ripe for their services rather than SPS's isolated issues.
Anonymous said…
The DOE will have over-site of all SPS operations. People make the common mistake of thinking SPED is somehow isolated from the rest of SPS. Federal funds are sprinkled across every aspect of SPS. Students with IEPs are general educations students FIRST and SPS has failed them and now will lose control of the funding. It looks like at least 3 high school principles are going to be fired for systemic OCR violations.

IHS, RHS and NHHS are the rumored worst offenders. SPS will officially announce its C-CAP failure in conjunction with the takeover, give it 60 days.

end isnear
Unknown said…
End isnear is correct that Federal funds are sprinkled throughout any public agency, but I don't know what you mean by the DOE having oversight of all operations. By what means? I don't think they have any power except for withholding funds. Are you talking about a consent decree? For more than Special Ed? I have no idea what the mechanism for that would be. Be a little more specific with your anonymous grave speculations, why don't you?
Anonymous said…
I think that the 100 Day Communications Plan is surprisingly poorly informed and insensitive to families of students with disabilities.

This (Nov-Dec-Jan) is a critical inflection point for families of students with disabilities, for whom there is no transparency or clarify about services closest to home at schools where access for typical students and their families can be taken for granted. Without information or transparency, this also robs our families of the right and responsibility to advocate for remediation.

In the Central Region students who need intensive services in general education (that's the "access" model formerly "SM4i" inclusion) will have to commute about 35 mins/day on a good traffic day to either McClure or Mercer, because WMS opts out of serving our students inclusively. Capacities management. So our kids will lose close to 24 hours of instructional time when they could be learning critical social and adaptive skills inclusively and/or in therapies, instead sitting on busses well beyond their schools closest to home. The immorality of this is something to ponder. This is where I feel SPS is working against the best interests of the child.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said…
Reposting for anonymous at 9:41,

"I would also question the policies and procedures manual developed w/o consultation with families. We are the PRIME stakeholders for transparent and coherent policies and procedures! To whit, I saw an early version of the manual and noticed that schools are not being instructed on how to work with families in the IEP process. I did provide that feedback but the gap has not been addressed. This directly affects families, and the abilities of admins in buildings to function in a law-abiding, law-informed and hence effective manner with families."

I agree. There are several areas that could use input from families. I note that the document is a draft.
Anonymous said…
Mary. Every document ever produced by SPS is a draft. And usually, there's not an update. It's another ploy, pretending to be accountable - but never being accountable. You can't complain about anything, or point to anything - because it's a draft.

mirmac1 said…
The RC cap requires a final, if only to make OSPI relevant
Anonymous said…
Hysterical. Seneca group, with its breadth of wonderful expertise, sopping up our federal IDEA funds - is on Craigslist to staff up its SPS outpost. I guess there never can be enough mouths at the trough!

Anonymous said…
Anne S is absolutely right about lack of clarity about available services. I'm still dealing with elementary school, which isn't quite as obscure as middle school & high school, but there is a mismatch between what things are on paper & what they are in practice.

On the school district website, the ACCESS program is described this way: "Students who receive Access services are those students with intensive special education needs who benefit
from spending the majority of their instructional time, including specially designed instruction, in the
general education setting with a full range of supports. Students may qualify in any one of the 13 federally
mandated categories of disability." Despite this, I have been specifically told by two different people (one my childs' current teacher's "supervising teacher", whatever that is, and one the vice principal at the closest school to us with an ACCESS program) that ACCESS does NOT allow modified curriculum; it is intended to provide social & behavioural support only, for children that can do grade level work. The VP specifically stated that it is intended to be "autism inclusion."

Given of that my child DOES need academic support/ specially designed instruction/ modified curriculum, and does not need social or behavioral support, this is kind of a problem. I strongly want my child in a inclusive setting rather than a self-contained class, but of course I'm rather hesitant to sign her up for something knowing she might end up at a school that has already told me they don't or won't provide what she needs.

I sent an email to the regional supervisor for my area asking her to clarify this, but needless to say, I have not heard back.

Mom of 4
Anonymous said…
Mom of 4! Do not despair! Sign up for ACCESS and do not take NO for an answer. DOCUMENT!!!! Ever wonder why the district hates putting anything in writing? Because they don't have a limb to stand on. If they wrote down what they say, they'd get nailed even more than they already do. Get it in writing that:
1) ACCESS really is good old boy Autism Inclusion (and NOT for anyone else like your kid) AND
2) Teachers in general education aren't expected to MODIFY.

Both of the above are ILLEGAL, and you can take them to the bank.

If your principal or other administrator is crafty, and resists documentation - document that too. Documentation is your friend. Write something like - "I heard you say that xyz... (eg. this program is really autism inclusion, my kid can't participate, and that teachers don't have to do ANY modifications). Is my understanding correct? Please let me know by (date) and confirm. I will continue with my assumption in absence of any clarification." If it is at an IEP meeting.... get these things DOCUMENTED IN PWN - prior written notice. Document your discussion, and your perception in a request for PWN.

Don't count on your "sped supervisor" or other SPED bureaucrat for anything. The new executive trio has about 5 years of experience between them. They HATE INCLUSION. Actually, they just hate SPED. Ever hear one tell anybody what sort of actual practice they intend to implement? Nope. Special ed practice isn't their job. They think their new job is to write up a bunch of papers and procedures - to self-contain every sped student in the district. Then, the sped students will all be GONE. The new administration has only ever heard of "Autism Inclusion", so they can't imagine anything else. They have no clue that "Modifications" are a part of EVERY IEP. There's even an modifications and accommodations section on every IEP. (Don't worry, they don't know that.) MODIFCATIONS are something decided at an IEP... (that means by YOU) not by a principal, not by a SPED SUPERVISOR, not by a new book of rules, not by the district. By YOU, and your IEP team. Period. And the "I" in the IEP - is for your INDIVIDUAL child, not procedural.

Do not fear complaints. OSPI, due process, procedural safeguards. That's how people get what they need. Without those safeguards - your kid would not be in school at all. Use them. And, ask for help doing it. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. Nowhere is that more true than in special education. Do not fear retribution. That too is illegal - and actionable. And they will fear it too.

When your child is in the ACCESS/Autism-inclusion program, it is likely that the teacher will work out just fine for your child.

Your alternative is self-contained. Are there ANY good ones? Go look! And, there's no road out. The district self-contains more and more every year. So, you look where that road leads - to middle or high school. And even if the cute kindergarten self-contained students look really cute. See how much they will have learned and look at a middle school. They won't be cute any more! Similarly disabled kids stuck in self-contained and institutional settings - look way different those who are not restricted.

And finally, get on the SPED Ptsa alias. There's always people (parents) who can help you there.

Anonymous said…

Tom Alberg is the CEO of a local venture capital firm called Madrona Ventures, used to be a corporate attorney before that. At least I'm guessing that's the Tom Alberg they are referring to.

Too many possibles for Mr. Nelson, though there's one who does advising on private wealth management for Morgan Stanley. Calling them local parents is a bit disingenuous, but what else is new around here ;)

Unknown said…
Mom of 4, Advocate is correct; ACCESS programs are the correct placement for someone who can do well with 50% or more of day in general ed but requires intensive support. Your principal is incorrect that this is only for students with emotional behavioral needs. Although Advocate tends to overgeneralize,, her instructions are correct as to what you should do. And generally, that is what you should do for any situation where you suspect that the special ed or general ed administrators information is incorrect.

There is not and hasn't been any good written information or any good infrastructure in the SpEd department for relaying correct information for many years; hence, you will often get misinformation rather than good information, even upon querying several different teachers/administrators. You can read more about that situation in the documents provided by mirmac1.

@reader47, that is correct. I believe Mr. Alberg is the parent of an adult son who is disabled. Mr. Nelsen is Bob Nelsen of Arcch Ventures Partners.

AnneS is also correct about this being a critical time for parents of children who are RISERS. Students who receive special education services are general education students first. I see nothing on this plan which includes the needs of students who receive special education services. I note that Seneca Family of Agencies has on its "to-do" list the creation of a call center for Special Education in October. I haven't heard anything about it or seen any information about it and I can't find any information about it on the SPS website. I also haven't received any information about the RISER process for this year, and I have a student who is rising to high school.
mirmac1 said…
I'll just add that we are ALL in the dark with respect to risers. The new inexperienced director of school-based services has no idea about anything riser. great.
Anonymous said…
Mary. I generalize - because I know nothing of Mom of 4. Make no mistake tho, (and maybe you'll have to trust me on this one) The district really does want to kill inclusion and stamp it out where ever it can. Mom of 4's experience is exactly what is happening to lots of people. ACCESS, the new inclusion is indeed supposedly reserved for students who need no help, and can survive for half the day with NO SUPPORT. Mom of 4 is correct, that the new "correct information" is that ACCESS is something without modification. It isn't a problem with information dissemination, it's a problem with the information itself! That is what the supervisors, bureaucrats, sped central office are saying and pushing - collectively. They say this... because they can't possibly believe that anybody before them designed ACCESS with inclusion in mind, for all students who need it. Push in services? For intensive needs? For resource room? Unfathomable to the current thinkers. Imagine that! The new administrators envision that the most expensive program of all - was designed (and negotiated into the CBA) for students without almost NO special needs! It is even written in the description - yet, they still can't believe it. They think if they repeat the reasons that it's ok to discriminate enough times, it will just be true.

Let's think about how ridiculous the current mindset is. Imagine - students with such HUGE emotional and organizational needs, so HUGE that they need the most expensive, and most highly supported program in the whole district. And guess what? No MODIFICATIONS to general education are permitted.

Reality. Students with emotional/social issues need ACADEMIC modification too. Nearly all students with "Autism" and emotional/behavioral needs - wind up needing ACADEMIC modifications, accommodations, and support. Why? Here are a few common problems that can cause academic problems in students without cognitive issues: inability to deal with ambiguity, too much work, inability to focus for long enough to attend to the academic instruction, inability to prioritize tasks, executive functioning, non-compliance, rampant bullying, social anxiety, rigid thinking, stuck thoughts, repetitive interests. And MORE.

But, we hear - this new ACCESS program can't deal with any of that because modification isn't something done in the ACCESS program. ????

At the end of the day - these challenges result in academic needs, and students often fall behind academically. Just like others. Just like Mom of 4's kid.

Anonymous said…
I need to clarify my reference to the # of instructional hours that our students with disabilities are being made to give up so that schools closest to home, that they would have attended if not disabled, can be available firstly to students without disabilities. I mentioned the figure of 24 hours. That's 24 hours/month or at least 6 hours/week busing from Central Region over to McClure on a good traffic day, ditto Central Region to Mercer Middle School.

So while typical students are enjoying their before/after school activities together, which do so much to build membership in their school community, and also maybe enjoying a bit of wind down time or exercise, our students who need these things so much more are sitting around on buses going the extra extra mile to/from school.

I have participated in SEAAC for seven years and each and every year the same access/inaccess issues have arisen. Each year the same pledges to remedy the situation are made and nothing changes. This year the District set up an ACCESS program at Mercer thereby addressing a gaping hole in inclusion services in middle school south of the ship canal and east of I5, however, now it appears that the District can find only two middle school students to benefit from it. How disorganized is that. What happened to the rest? Were they railroaded into self contained programs due to the inexperience of the staff?

I am also able to report that for several "ACCESS" programs families are being told not to bother even touring because they are "full". Can you imagine being a family of a typical student and being told that you might as well not even bother to knock on the door of your closest to home school, including closest to home option school, because "we're full for your kind"? Sometime I hope for leadership to address these shocking double standards where students with disabilities are concerned.

Anonymous said…
Most likely, students are not enrolled in ACCESS at Mercer - because they are told that Mercer will-not/does-not-have-to/can-not provide any modifications or accommodations to general education for students in the ACCESS program. How "Accessible" is that? And, even with a plethora of staff 4 staff for just 10 students, - they will only be supported a maximum of half time. It means - ACCESS is really for students who are not disabled.

(Of course it begs the question, what will the 4 staff members in the ACCESS program be doing - if they are only allowed to be with students for 1/2 the day?)

mirmac1 said…
The "external consultant" that OSPI requires SPS to use is posting job openings on craigslist. Here are the responsibilities for the Director of School Partnerships:

•Work effectively as a member of a multidisciplinary team to design, manage and supervise the vision and operations of new Unconditional Education Partnerships in Washington State.
•Coach/mentor school- and system-leaders to practice effective change management and successfully institute reforms.
•Plan and facilitate professional development and/or professional learning communities focused on data-driven best practices for system change, leadership development and content mastery.
•Develop and maintain both internal and partner site systems which enhance effectiveness, ensure compliance, and provide consistency in approach.
•Interact with policy and legislation priorities which intersect with the mission of the Unconditional Education Partnership.
•Meet weekly with internal and external leadership teams and with supervisees to enhance practice and create coherence.
•Foster effective stakeholder community relations by working with parents, school staff, district departments, individual schools, governing boards, private/public partnerships, service providers, and local, state and federal partners.
•Drive the program's reform efforts by setting a tone of high expectations.

One of their "disruptive innovations" (snort) is to set up a call center so that now parents can get bad or wrong information from those folks. Hey at least someone will answer the phone...

The Seneca Group counts among their "external stakeholders" two local venture capitalists.
Anonymous said…
Awesome! Can wait to have a little newly minted "created coherence". Will that be showing up in my kid's backpack?

Anonymous said…
Possibly I am Naive about how these things happen....but why would one hire an agency such as Seneca, to help right a sinking ship, without an experienced staff on board when they were first vetted? The Seneca agency appears to be a truly wonderful group ( providing DIRECT SERVICE to troubled youth (mostly appears to be focused on mental health issues and supports) in California. Great philosophy, mission and website and a variety of projects. Yet I see nothing in their history that even vaguely looks similar to the huge job they are embarking on. Do they have a track record working with an entire school district in trouble? And now it appears that they do not even have the staff needed to do the job. ( Seems backwards to me.

Now, I do have to point out that the fact that this agency has extensive experience working DIRECTLY with youth with special needs is considerably more then the three highest administrators in the special ed department have (two principals and a school psych), so there’s some irony.

I hope I am missing something.

mirmac1 said…
A company website is not going to list their failures. I've pushed the district for nearly two years to require that any consultant who professes to "fix" SpEd (not just write worthless reports, marginally supported by any data), find one with a proven track record. Let's find out what track record this group has.
Anonymous said…
The fact Seneca is 2 or 3 months into their contract, have missed all their deliverables and are now more than 2 months behind, have yet to staff up their own organization much less staff up the district, and are delivering such bogus fluff - "created coherence", should raise the ire, or at least scrutiny of the board.

uxolo said…
Reader, can you please point me a place where I can read about the Seneca contract?
mirmac1 said…
SPS hired these fools because a) they had NO other option (TIERS?! HAH!) and b) Wright and his Gates buds like this "think outside the box" crowd that knows zilch about SpEd. They figured they had to add a few known names onto their proposal to get their foot in the door.

Their scope of work is on pages 11 and 12 at the link. It essentially says provide a fulltime coordinator and bill hours according to the budgeted hours below. Submit some monthly reports of what those hours were good for. All on Attachment A.

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