Friday, January 30, 2015

Seattle Schools Responds to Legislative Action Towards District

From SPS Communications:

Bill 1497 – Mayoral Appointment of Two School Board Members

Citizens have a right to elect their representatives to a governing body, regardless of what body it is - School Board, City Council, and State Senate to the federal level. A citizen’s right to vote should never be diminished, which is exactly what this bill does. Voter participation is the cornerstone of our democracy and we fully support Seattle voters selecting their school board members. Elected school board directors are accountable directly to the parents and other voters who elect them. That is how it should be.

Research supports continuing an elected board structure. The number of appointed and mayoral controlled boards in urban cities has declined steadily over the past 15 years – and for good reason: they didn’t serve students and families well. In 2000, there were approximately 40 cities with mayoral controlled school districts, this year there are currently 12.

There is no guarantee a political appointment will be based on a particular expertise in education or commitment to public schools. Appointees may come to the board with a political agenda which drives them to function in an elite or trustee orientation. School Board members should have an altruistic motivation for service, not position focused, and be concerned with the general welfare of students.

Appointed boards, particularly in the Northeast, have a poor track record when it comes to reducing conflict and increasing board stability. The research indicates that partnerships between cities and school districts work better than mayoral appoints to the board. (Research from Prof. Tom Alsbury, Seattle Pacific University)

Seattle Public Schools appreciates the strong partnership we already have with Mayor Ed Murray and the City of Seattle. This is evident in our Families and Education Levy as well as the recent passage of the Preschool Education Levy. When city and school leaders work together in partnership, resources are leveraged to the benefit of the entire community. We believe this is how city and schools should be working together to make a difference in the lives of our students.

Bill 1860 – Splitting Seattle Public Schools into Two Separate Districts

Dividing Seattle Public Schools into two distinct districts would increase fiscal costs to taxpayers and create operational inefficiencies. Separate governance boards would need to be created, leadership teams and central office support, and additional equipment, supplies and materials.

Currently, the coordination of school schedules and operations is done across the city, in partnership with the city, to minimize to the greatest extent possible, the impact of traffic (bell times), safety and security (before and after school programs), facilities (parks and recreation and school use agreements). This coordination would be lost by creating two distinct school systems.

The formation of two separate districts would further segregate the City of Seattle. The city is already challenged by the economic inequities between north and south Seattle, and this proposal would further polarize the city and increase the disparity between geographic regions across Seattle. For our city to be a vibrant, healthy, urban center, we need to continue to strive for equity and inclusion for all citizens, regardless of what area of the city they live in.

The suggestion that Seattle Public Schools is failing is blatantly false.

This is particularly disrespectful to our school communities in South Seattle. While we continue to focus on raising academic achievement across the system and particularly in southeast Seattle, we have several examples of success stories. Cleveland, Franklin, Mercer and Wing Luke were recently named Schools of Distinction. We have seen significant progress in closing the achievement gap, particularly in our South Seattle Schools. Students enrolled in Title 1 schools increased in mathematics by 17.4% between 2010 and 2013. The increase in Non-Title 1 Schools was 11.4%. During the same period, reading for Title 1 schools improved by 13.7% versus 7.7% in Non-Title 1 schools. In 2013, student achievement in Seattle Public Schools Title I schools was significantly above similar schools across the state in math and reading by 10.4 (math) and 7.3 (reading) percentage points.

As a whole, SPS outperforms the state average regarding student assessments.

Conversing with Rep Tomiko Santos on Breaking up the Seattle School District

I spoke with Tomiko Santos about this issue this morning. It was a concerning conversation because of several things she said:

Friday Open Thread

No new bids on the Federal Reserve building.

TWO bills from one Washington State legislator that would radically change Seattle Schools forever?  In one week?  And this is probably the most ed reform guy in the Legislature?  You don't have to wonder what the puppetmasters are up to. 

Great article on a letter that the Georgia State Superintendent sent to Arne Duncan. 

Georgia recently entered into a $108 million contract to deliver federally mandated standardized tests to our students. That figure does not include the millions of dollars spent to develop and validate test questions and inform the public about the new tests.

As a nation, we have surrendered time, talent, and resources to an emphasis on autopsy-styled assessments, rather than physical-styled assessments. 

Instead of a “measure, pressure, and punish” model that sets our students, teachers, and schools up for failure, we need a diagnostic, remediate/accelerate model that personalizes instruction, empowers students, involves parents, and provides real feedback to our teachers.

Testing must be a tool in our toolbox, but we need more rulers and fewer hammers.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

HB 1860 - Bye, bye SPS

Well, it appears that the Seattle Weekly's statement that Reps. Pettigrew and Tomiko Santos wanting to divide up Seattle School district is true.  Meet HB 1860.

It opens with this:

AN ACT Relating to first-class school director districts for the purposes of dividing large districts and limiting their number of board of director members; adding a new section to chapter 28A.343 RCW; creating a new section; providing an effective date; providing an expiration date; and declaring an emergency. 

Okay, where's the fire?  If I had the time, I'd love to compare SPS to other mid-sized urban districts.  I'm not sure it would fall anywhere near the "emergency" label.


Effective September 1, 2018, no first-class school director district may comprise more than thirty-five thousand students or have more than five members of its board of directors.

Well, that would mean SPS not only would be divided BUT would no longer have seven members of the board. That would play well if Seattle's mayor was able to appoint two members of a five-member.

The superintendent of public instruction must submit a final report and recommendations to the governor and the education and fiscal committees of the legislature by December 1, 2015.

And the bill would go in effect by July 2015.  

Quite the throwdown by the ed reformers.  Nothing like going for broke.  

I will be talking to Tomiko Santos soon and I'm eager to hear what this is all about.

More Education Updates

 Update on Federal Reserve building - I'm pretty sure the district is out of it.  The bid is now up to $9.6M and the bidding window is now open another day.  It appears two bidders are duking it out because the other four hats in the ring have remained inactive since their first bids.   If it's the district who is still in it, I have no idea where they are finding these dollars.

end of update

The Times is reporting that a 13-year old Denny International student was robbed by a man with a gun as she walked to school this morning in the Delridge neighborhood.  He took her backpack and patted her down, apparently looking for a cellphone or money but she had neither.

She reported this to the school when she got there.

From the West Seattle blog:

Ed News Updates

The hearing on 1497 (allowing the mayor to appoint 2 school board members) will be in the House Education Committee on Tues., Feb. 3 at 1:30pm in the House Hearing Room A in the John L. O'Brien building.   I would encourage anyone who cares to send in a message to your legislator or even come on down. 

On the Federal Reserve building, apparently it DID go the eBay way. The Times is reporting that there were six bidders with the top bid being $7.6M.  We only know for certain that SPS is one of the bidders.  But the deadline - which was yesterday - has been extended because auction rules state that "the bidding continues until the highest bid goes unchallenged for 24 hours."  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saying No to Mayoral Control

A group of public education activists has come out against Rep. Eric Pettigrew's bill to all the mayor of Seattle to appoint two members of the Seattle School Board.  It includes statements from Director Sue Peters who, as far as I know, is the only Board director to go on record.  I asked for a statement - a week ago - from the Board but have received no answer.

The Seattle Weekly has a good story that has a startling ending. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

 UPDATE:  If you’re the parent of a soon-to-be middle-schooler, mark your calendars for this Thursday, January 29th. McClure Middle School is hosting an Open House and Tour to help families learn more about Queen Anne’s neighborhood middle school. Incoming students can learn more about their new school and parents can learn more about what McClure offers its students.

Check out the flyer below for all the information you need to know:


End of update

If you are a member of your PTA, you might consider weighing in on the issue of hybrid mayoral control of the school board to both your unit (if they are taking a stand) and to the SCPTSA

President – Katherine Schomer, president@scptsa.org

Legislative Chair – Eden Mack, legchair@scptsa.org

I think my stand is pretty clear; no.  It's not democratic, it questions voters abilities to make their own choice, there is no proof that the current mayor has any real credibility in this area and there is no solid proof that hybrid boards do any better.

I understand that there will be a hearing on the Pettigrew-sponsored bill at the Education Committee in the Legislature.  I have no problem with that because let's a have a full airing of the issues and allow committee members to see the flaw in this thinking.  Folks complained previously that some ed issues never made it to even a hearing - well, now's your chance but I would believe it will be a tough sell.

What's rather interesting is the lack of interest from other media like the Times and Crosscut who very much lean to this kind of ed reform.  You have to wonder, "Why so silent?"

In other ed reform news, the state Democratic Party committee has voted to REJECT Common Core.  This from my colleague, Anthony Cody's blog, Living in Dialogue.  

The Central Committee of the Washington State Democratic Party has passed a resolution that roundly condemns the Common Core standards. This is the first time a statewide Democratic Party committee has taken a public position against the Common Core, and it happened in the back yard of the Gates Foundation, which has provided the funding that made the national standards project possible. This could signal a sea-change for the beleaguered standards, because up until now, political opposition has been strongest in the Republican party.

In other local ed reform news, a lengthy story from the Tacoma Tribune over the rising tide of parents opting-out of testing.  It features many parent activists I have worked with like Sandi Strong.

These standardized tests are among the more than two dozen — both state- and district-mandated — that Tacoma Public Schools will administer at various grade levels this year.

Tacoma Superintendent Carla Santorno is paying attention to the growing discontent, and she understands the limits of standardized tests.

And she worries about what will happen if too many high-performing students opt out.
“That skews the data,” Santorno said.

Hamel said standardized tests provide “a narrow and incomplete picture of the students we see day in and day out.” He said they rarely give teachers information they don’t already know about their students.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/01/24/3599718_tacoma-area-parents-join-movement.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/01/24/3599718_tacoma-area-parents-join-movement.html?rh=1#storylink=c

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/01/24/3599718_tacoma-area-parents-join-movement.html?rh=1#storylink=

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/01/24/3599718_tacoma-area-parents-join-movement.html?rh=1#story

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, Jan. 27th
Kindergarten Enrollment night, 5:30-7:00 pm, Northgate Elementary, open to all.

Wednesday, Jan. 29th

Work Sessions:
• Oversight Work Session: Enrollment & Planning (4:30-5:30 PM)
• Work Session: Budget (5:30-7 PM)
• Work Session: Series 1000 Policies (7-8 PM)

Nothing attached for Budget so clearly the Enrollment Work Session is the most interesting.
Fun fact: the district has no permanent Enrollment director but yes, they have a demographer (and a PhD at that), Natasha Rivers.  The interim director appears to come from an IT consulting firm.  The district has also hired a communications firm, Write as Rain, for "growth boundaries communications."

Page 5 is all about Stakeholder Engagement and Public Information.

Page 11 on Opportunities and Risks is also worth reading.

Then we get to the percentage projections page for elementary, middle and high school.  Sober reading.  Elementary looks like the overwhelming majority of elementary schools are 95%+ full. The Middle school page does not use the same numbering as elementary and  high (no explanation given).  High schools look the same as elementary...right now.

Saturday, Jan. 31st
Community Meeting with Director Blanford from 10-11:30 am at Douglass Truth Library.

Community Meeting with Director Patu from 10 am to noon at Caffe Vita. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Seattle Schools 100-Day Plan for Customer Service

The district has updated its website with a new feature for every department.  It's called the "How Do I...?" for parents/community.  I cannot supply you with a specific link to this story because there is none available.  From the announcement:

We want to help! As part of Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland’s 100-Day Plan for Customer Service, we’ve created a quick and easy list of the most Frequently Asked Questions.
Each department across Seattle Public Schools has identified and provided the answers to your most pressing questions.

Some of the most Frequently Asked Questions include:
  • I’ve just moved into the Seattle School District. How do I sign up my child for school?
  • How do I find out if my child qualifies for gifted education?
  • And, our favorite: What is the process for getting started as a volunteer in Seattle Public Schools?
To view the Most Frequently Asked Questions and learn more about our departments, please visit the new “How Do I… ?” tab at the top of our website. We have also started to add "How do I... ?" buttons to our most frequently visited department pages, with the department's top questions and answers. We will add "How do I... ?" lists to more departments over the coming weeks.

I have only checked a couple of departments and I will say it's a good start.  Given the questions we see here at this blog, I'm not sure that all the FAQs are the most frequently asked.  It doesn't say how to add questions to any given department.

As well, there is an article at the district's homepage on the two district Ombudspersons, Ron McGlone and Margo Siegenthaler.

Friday Open Thread

It appears the Board agreed to bid on the Federal Reserve building.  Interesting thing, though, is that the feds have lower the opening bid from $3M to $1M.

On the one hand, the district could get themselves quite the bargain if no one else bids.  Or, it may go Ebay style and have multiple last minute bidders.  The district is paying for its own appraisal and can go 10% over that amount (with these "capital reserves" that are apparently sitting around).  I'll try to find out what that amount is.  (If the district is successful, look for this project to be number one with a bullet on BEX V.)

The district is looking for members for a taskforce on the new 24-credit graduation requirement.

In January 2015, the Washington State Board of Education approved the district’s request for a two-year waiver of the new requirement, which will increase the number of course credits needed for graduation from 20 to 24. Seattle Public Schools students currently are required to earn 21 credits.

The new rule was due to take effect with the graduating class of 2019, but with the waiver will now take effect for the graduating class of 2021 (current sixth-graders). 

To note (bold mine):

While many of our students do earn 24 credits, the new requirement leaves no room to recover credits for students who may fail a course or want to access additional courses.

The waiver affords the district an opportunity to rethink its systems for high school students, which may include revisions to schedules. Community members, staff or students interested in serving on the task force should send an email expressing interest by Feb. 20, 2015, to Erin Stoen, Director of College & Career Readiness, at emstoen@seattleschools.org.

The district has also annnounced that the whole district is now totally wireless.  

Tomorrow there is just one community meeting with Director Peters at the Magnolia Library from
11 am to 1 pm.

What's on your mind?

Friday Open Thread

It's Friday and the our thoughts turn towards the weekend. Or do they?

What are your thoughts turning towards?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pettigrew Files Bill to Allow School Board Appointments by Mayor

Well that didn't take long.  (Thanks to SCPTSA's Eden Mack for the tip on this bill.)  It's House bill 1497.

I'll go into details that I see as problematic (beginning with the why;I have a call out to the Representative's office.)  There is one interesting glaring issue that I didn't know about in the original RCW that I wonder about.  This bill is only four pages long; see if you can spot it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

We will hear the President's thoughts in the State of the Union address tonight.

Let's hear your thoughts here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Over Half of Public School Students are Poor

In the United States.

From the NY Times:

In a report released Friday by the Southern Education Foundation, researchers found that 51 percent of children in public schools qualified for the lunches in 2013, which means that most of them come from low-income families. By comparison, 38 percent of public school students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2000.

According to the report, which analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics, a majority of students in 21 states are poor. Close to two-thirds of those states are in the South, which has long had a high concentration of poor students. In Mississippi, for example, close to three-fourths of all public school students come from low-income families.

But the West also has a large and growing proportion of low-income students. Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada have high rates of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

What say you to that, ed reformers?  Charters and vouchers and TFA going to solve this equation? 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Huge Happenings In Public Ed Throughout the U.S.

First up, Testing

It appears that most people are in agreement - there is too much testing in this country.  (Sorry, except for Arne Duncan.)  Going to the press conference at the Senator Patty Murray event at Madrona certainly made that clear.  Senator Murray says there needs to be work to reduce the "redundant and unnecessary testing" in our schools.  (No, she wouldn't be more specific than that.)  She also said she had heard from many parents and educators that the current testing does not meet the needs of students especially around progress. 

She could not have been more clear, "NCLB is broken" and it's "no secret" that it is not working.  She said there was no disagreement about this in Congress.  

But she did say a couple of disturbing things.  One, they need "data."  Data is what is going to tell us everything we need to know about student progress.  Two, I asked her about student data privacy being included in any reworking of NCLB and she said, yes, there were many issues in education and this is one of them.  She said it is a growing concern but only seemed concerned in a general way.

Stories about the rising up against testing.

Seattle Schools: What's the Plan?

A bit of a slow week at SPS, probably because of the MLK, Jr. day off.  It's a good day to reflect on issues around race relations and our district, our city, our state and our country.  Maybe a good day to go see Selma.  (I read that one student - at a sponsored viewing of the movie - had said thank you to the producers for making it because he finally learned what "MLK" stood for - meaning, the actual letters, not the man. Amazing.)

Looking over the Board agenda for the school board meeting on Wednesday, I found a compare and contrast moment.  The Times had a good story about the Creative Advance Initiative - arts in the schools program - and it's highly successful launch. 

The Creative Advantage Initiative, a program paid for by the city of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools and the private Seattle Foundation, this school year helped 1,659 students in about 12 schools — mostly in the central part of the city — who wouldn’t otherwise have received regular music instruction.

Next year, the group will help 10 more schools offer arts and music classes. In general, schools in the program are able to hire more arts teachers and buy supplies, but they also get about $7,500 a year to hire artists or connect with organizations from the community, like the symphony or ballet.

On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the arts program will help end those inequities and that the city would spend $525,000 on the program over the next two years. To date, the city has spent $450,000 and the school district has paid $600,000, said Calandra Childers of the city’s office of arts and culture.

So those sums of $450K and $600K jumped out at me because the Board agenda reflects Intro items on McDonald Elementary and John Stanford for $502,000 and $450,000 for their PTAs to spend for Language Immersion Instructional Assistants.

Of course, I am not criticizing those schools (far from it).  But those are nearly the amounts that the City and the district put in for all those schools to have art. Can you imagine if those two schools got to raise that money for art or other enrichment?  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Open Thread

Off to the Murray/Nyland press conference this morning at Madrona K-8.

And speaking of Madrona, there is to be a meeting next Wed, the 21st for "future families" for the to-be-reopened Meany Middle School at the Miller Community Center at 7 p.m.

Meany Middle School will house both general education and Spectrum programs. ALL students who live within the reference areas of Montlake, Stevens, Lowell, McGilvra, Madrona, Leschi and John Muir Elementary schools (including those in 7th and 8th grades) will be assigned to attend Meany in 2017. This means that current 5th graders will start at Meany in 8th grade. When it opens, Meany will have around 700 students, and it is projected that Meany will eventually house up to 850 students, allowing the school district to be able to serve the increasing number of school-age children in central Seattle and alleviating the current overcrowding at Washington Middle School.

For questions contact Jennifer Emrich (Montlake & Garfield parent), jen.emrich@comcast.net

Event next week not to be missed - Thursday, Jan. 22nd at 7 pm in the Quincy Jones Auditorium at Garfield High, 1968 Olympic bronze medalist, John Carlos, will be speaking on a community panel about the current Black Lives Matter movement.  The panel also includes Garfield teacher/activist, Jesse Hagopian. 

Arizona has become the first state in the country to require students to pass part of the U.S. Citizenship test on civics in order to graduate.  Their law requires students to get 60 (out of 100) questions right.  I'm not sure passing this test will make anyone a better citizen but we need better informed citizens. 

 What's on your mind?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Senator Murray to Join Super Nyland to talk NCLB

From SPS Communications:

Press Conference Friday: U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent to discuss “No Child Left Behind” Law
What:             U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland, will discuss the “No Child Left Behind” law tomorrow morning at Madrona K-8 school. Murray will address her ongoing efforts to fix and improve the legislation and Nyland will talk about NCLB challenges from an administrator’s perspective.

Murray will read to a 1st grade class, followed by the press conference.

Who:               Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
                        Larry Nyland, Superintendent, Seattle Public Schools
                        Rachelle Moore, 1st grade teacher at Madrona Elementary
                        Madrona K-8 parents
                        Madrona K-8 Principal Mary McDaniel                          

When:             Friday, January 16, 2015                                                                               
                        10:30-11:30 a.m.

End of SPS Communication

Great article from PoliticoPro on this subject about how the Republican power base in Congress see NCLB.

Republicans are hatching an ambitious plan to rewrite No Child Left Behind this year — one that could end up dramatically rolling back the federal role in education and trigger national blowouts over standardized tests and teacher training.

The Scoop on the Roosevelt Reservoir

I get our local newsletter,The Roosie, for all things Roosevelt/Ravenna.  They had a lengthy article on the fate of the Roosevelt Reservoir in their latest issue (which, unfortunately, is not up at their website yet).


- the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association is putting together a working group to gather info and design for community input

- SPU says that there is a drinking water study being done to be completed by April 2015 to answer the question: Will the new Maple Leaf Reservoir provide adequate water for surrounding communities?  Then, a seismic study will be done on Seattle's whole water system and that may be another year. 

So, no decisions on the use of the RR will be made until at least the middle of 2016.  

If the RR is decommissioned/surplussed, SPU's must receive fair market value per state act.  If Parks, for example, wanted that, they would have to find the money to buy it from SPU.  There would be a "property disposition process" that the City would manage and there are policies set up by the City Council for steps in that process including public input.  

So if the district wanted another school, it would seem they would have to buy the property (or someone buys it and donates it to the district). 

RNA says that it would like to increase the amount of parks/open space and supports another city park.  One person is advocating for a "Roosevelt Sport Center" with two ice rinks(!!) and maybe a pool and outside fields. 

Given that there is a park directly to the south of the reservoir, maybe the two areas could be combined. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A "Constitutional System" for Schools

Gee whiz, what level of craziness out of Crosscut via Paul Hill at the CRPE and his new idea about a "constitutional system" for schools and the role of school board.

Here's the comment I put in:

Dr Hill gets a few things right and several things wrong.

He's right that rearranging who gets to be on a board or whopicks the board hasn't shown any major promise. (And it's interesting that Mayor Murray still seems to want to try this takeover with the Seattle School Board. It would be good political theater but bad policy.)

I would also agree that the confusion/tension over the role of the school board (and being on the school board is a team sport, not an individual one) vis a vis the running of a district can be a problem.

But he gets much wrong - at least for Seattle - one what the Board does. The Board does not:

- decide how the money will be spent - the Superintendent and staff do and the Board okays it.
- hiring and assign teachers - the Board has zero to do with this
- choosing instructional practices - not sure what he means but yes, the Board does approve books but not how they are used
- manage real estate - again, that's the Superintendent and staff's jobs to do and the Board only approves what is brought to them
- running a bus system - nope
- negotiating favorable terms for the teachers contract - absolutely not. No Seattle Board member sits in on a single negotiating session. Those are planned and run by the Superintendent and staff. Again, the Board only approves the final contract.

What boards need to do is create policies for the Superintendent to then create procedures to guide the work of a district. And then, enforce them thru accountability measures. That's all. The Board has nothing to do with the actual running of the district.

Then we come to Dr. Hill's REAL premise - you might call it vouchers or "schools as districts" (kind of like it is for charter schools) - whatever it is, it's one hot mess.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Upcoming Work Session and Operations Committee Meetings

I finally had the opportunity to look over the Work Session presentation on "Resource Stewardship" and "LEAN."

I don't really like PowerPoint presentations and understand that they are general outlines with the presenter to fill the points.  But I found this a confusing presentation.

One, I felt there was a lot of filler.  I am big on getting to the point so explaining that improving processes would help with both the bottom line and customer service.

Two, page 5 says there was a School Leader Survey in 2015.   How did staff get this done less than two weeks into the new year?  If  this was truly done in 2015, then kudos to them.  But another issue on the same page is what do these colors mean?  I know red is probably bad but again, not clear.

Then there's the issue of LEAN.  Page 6 says "Define Value..from a Customer Perspective!."  That may work for business but if you ask a parent what "value" from their child's school may mean from their perspective, you'll get a lot of answers.  (Ask a taxpayer - who is footing the bill - and you'll get even more.)

Page 12 talks about Enrollment and "tuition billing."  Again, I am unsure what they are talking about here.  Is that kindergarten tuition?  I have to assume so.  The number of steps they reduced is great and they say they "increased funding by $560K."  That really begs the question of how?  Did this process increase the funding or did more students enroll?  Or did they save money for the department?

Page 13 was also interesting because the contrast presented were two photos of the Enrollment Office being cleaned up.

The last page was a push for LEAN without saying anything about costs.  Is the district going to invest dollars in this effort or is it just a new way of doing things that senior staff already know how to implement?

If anyone attends, please let us know about what you hear.

The Operations Committee meeting is Thursday afternoon and here's the agenda.

There are a couple of BEX updates and then several enrollment issues.

Tuesday Open Thread

Can't remember if I posted this before but here's a research page from the SPS Archives.  The first story is about Japanese-American clerks at SPS during WW II who resigned from their jobs.

Below that is a history of SPS levy/bonds that many of you may find useful.   The reporting drops off towards the end before BEX IV (and a listing of all the work done on the buildings in SPS would be great), but a good primer.

2019 - The Year Children of Color will be the Majority.  Lots of stats and info here from the Children's Defense Fund.

I found this page at Stand for Children where a $10 donation "can help send a parent to a school board meeting."  Is that for gas or to pay them to be there? 

Still no bids on the Federal Reserve Building.

What's on your mind?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seattle Schools and Technology/Data Privacy: Do They Get It?

Several troubling things have happened over the last several months that relate to data privacy and the Technology Department.

The first is, of course, the huge data breach by Sped/Legal (no one will take responsibility here so I don't know who to name) in releasing student data about every Sped student in the district (as well as some Gen Ed students at Roosevelt High School).

I am dismayed by both the district and Board reactions.  I get why they want to believe this is just some isolated incident and wasn't a "true" data breach (meaning, some outside hacker got the data).  The problem is that it IS the district's job to protect that data, in both big and small ways.

Then there is the issue of a data breach at Ballard High School in late December.  Principal Keven Wyncoop sent home a letter to parents that said it happened on Dec. 8th 2014 with student transcripts from the senior class being sent by a counselor via e-mail to a Ballard high parent AND the admissions office at Western Washington University.

The claim is that "immediate action" was taken when the school was informed of the "error."

Okay, so question one: when did Ballard become aware there were two errors in sending out the transcripts?  

Seattle Schools This Week

Updated from Sunday morning, 1/11, with two Tuesday, Jan. 13th events.

Monday, Jan. 12th
Financial Aid Event: College Goal Washington Financial Aid Event for Seniors at Franklin High School from 5-7 pm.

Curriculum & Instruction Committee Meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm. Agenda
A seemingly brief agenda for a two-hour meeting.  The total items seems to clock in at about an hour but two items,
  1. Special Education RC-CAP (Jessee/Clancy/Hanson)
  2. MTSS (Heath/Dysart)
would seem to need a lot longer than 10 minutes each. 

Friday, January 09, 2015

About the Blog

Gentle readers,

Because of a serious and on-going family need and because I want to concentrate on a couple of key public education issues, I will be dialing back on my work here at the blog.

I also want to concentrate on the coming School Board and City Council races which will have direct impacts on Seattle Schools.  I am even considering a run for the Board myself (that would be in District III, the post currently held by Director Martin-Morris).

The family issue makes my schedule erratic so I may not cover committee/board meetings as I have in the past.  As well, I may not be able to follow breaking issues as quickly.

I will be able to continue the Tuesday and Friday Open Threads.

As we have said in the past about the blog, we are always glad to have readers send submissions.  Of course, Charlie or I have to vet them but we want more voices and this is a good time to hear from you.  Again, send a submission to either Charlie or myself.

Regretfully, I won't be able to answer any e-mail queries for the forseeable future.

Fear not.  I have eyes and ears in many corners so if something comes up, I will likely know and (hopefully) be able to report to you about it.  (So don't anyone break out the champagne - I'm not going anywhere.)  Do continue to send tips/event notices.

Melissa W.

P.S. I appreciate DW's good wishes but I had intended to have this thread with no comments.

Please Take the PTA Survey on Legislative Action

Want a fully funded education for Washington's children?

Make a postcard  Your response to the survey  will be printed into a postcard, and these will be hand delivered to your Washington State Legislators (your Senator and 2 Representatives) plus Governor Inslee on ​Washington State PTA Focus Day on January 19th in Olympia.
This is the last chance-the deadline for filling out the survey is Monday January 13th at 10 p.m. so please take a few moments now to fill out the survey

Going to Focus Day on January 19th? 
  • Find out more and register here
  • Don't feel like driving?  Ride the bus.  Round trip tickets are $10/adult and $5/kids.  Bus will leave from both the Green Lake and Airport Way park and rides.  Buy your bus tickets here
  • Want to meet with your legislators?  RSVP to your Focus Day legislative district coordinators:
    • 34th: Paul: stentorian1@comcast.net
    • 36th:  Ljiliana: ljiljana.penuela@gmail.com
    • 37th:  Justin: justin.kalm@gmail.com
    • 43rd:  Heidi: heidi@bennettdirect.net
    • 46th:  Toni:  tonihiggs@hotmail.com
Any other questions or concerns?  Email Eden at legchair@scptsa.org 

Friday Open Thread

Yogi Berra-type tweet from Rep. Ross Hunter on 1351 (via KPLU's Kyle Stokes) - "When you look at a thing that can't be funded, it won't be."

Saw a photo from a community meeting that was held at Nathan Hale High School with Rep. Gerry Pollet of the 46th about the upcoming Legislative session  - it looked packed.

Saturday Community meeting with Director Carr from 8:30 am-10:00am at Bethany Community Church.

What's on your mind?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Seattle Schools Audit&Finance Committee Lalapalooza Agenda

Quite an interesting and packed agenda for the Audit and Finance Committee meeting on Thursday.  (It's also interesting that the Executive Ctm meeting, normally in the morning, is at the exact same time so it won't be possible to attend both.)

Items of interest:

  • Washington State Auditor’s Office Entrance Conference (Technow) 
Always interesting to hear from the Auditor.

Updates from SPS and Around the Sound

The Shoreline School district is currently in lockdown.  A staff member at Meridian Park Elementary reported seeing a man with a gun.

Students on buses currently enroute to school have been rerouted to Spartan Rec Center where parents with ID may pick them up.  The district is asking parents to NOT send their kids to school today. 

Also today, Hoquiam School District, Taholah School District on the Quinalt Reservation, Aberdeen School District and South Bend School district - all of these are closed today because of the landslides and flooding in their area.

Please send out some good karma/prayers for all these districts and their students and staffs.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

 Update:  I note the article in the Times today (1/7) about the deputy superintendent in Tacoma, Josh Garcia.  Mr. Garcia has now received a second national award (in as many years) for his leadership.  Tacoma schools has a "whole child" measuring system.

Their graduation rate has gone from 55 to 78 percent in four years.  Apparently Garcia says that it is important to write goals for students, not adults. 

So this idea that there was no one else to pick in our region for superintendent might have been wrong (and again, I knew of another great pick).  The Board did what they wanted to do but they cannot say that they HAD to do a national search.  We have a lot of good people right in our own backyard and should have considered ALL of them for the best fit for our district.

end of update.

Really good article from Knute Berger on Seattle process and he uses the appointment of Superintendent Nyland as an example.  He gets one thing right:

Just a decision that Nyland was good enough, so let’s move on.

The school board is now on the hook for the choice, which was not a unanimous decision. There’s no question here about who’s accountable.

I love that "good enough" and I guess if you, as a Board, are looking for a caretaker (albeit an expensive one), then they did do "good enough" with Nyland.

But yes, the Board is now truly accountable.

What's on your mind?

Monday, January 05, 2015

Green Dot Site Likely in SW Seattle

West Seattle Blog editor, Tracy Record, has discovered that it appears Green Dot is trying to remodel a church building in the Roxbury area of West Seattle. 

Reviewing city permit application files today, we discovered a just-filed early-stage proposal to remodel and add to what is currently the Jesus Center/Freedom Church building at 35th/Roxbury, in the name of Los Angeles-based Pacific Charter School Development

The one document publicly visible in the Department of Planning and Development system so far, dated December 31st, is a roughed-out site plan, showing the addition primarily along the Roxbury side of the 2 1/3-acre site.

I note that the Pacific Charter School Development is a capital building/renovation group funded by the Gates Foundation, the NewSchools Venture Fund, Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation - in short, ALL the usual suspects.  It's based on this:
Venture Philanthropy

These organizations support PCSD’s adherence to the “triple bottom line” philosophy embraced by some of today’s most creative and result-focused philanthropists: green, sustainable financially, and incorporating the highest possible social return on their invested dollars.

Green Dot is planning to open multiple schools over the next few years and Pacific has partnered with Green Dot to build several of these facilities. For more information, visit www.greendot.org.

The CEO of Pacific, John Sun, has this on his Linked-In page:

• Oversee facilities development in Los Angeles, Boston, Memphis, and Seattle/Tacoma 
• Established Seattle office to serve the Washington State charter school sector
• Build relationships with public charter school leaders to support their facilities needs
• Develop partnerships with local elected officials, school district leadership and other key stakeholders
• Defined PCSD growth strategy that will increase public charter schools’ ability to access public bond funding, allow PCSD to serve new geographies and increase PCSD revenues

For a Green Dot school in Tacoma they have leased a former elementary, John R. Rogers Elementary from "a PCSD subsidiary" which is then subleasing to Green Dot Washington.

I have a call into The Jesus Center as they seem to still be an active church with fitness center. 

Licton Springs Site Council Announces Showing of Eaglestaff

From the Licton Springs Site Council:

On the Monday we return - January 5th, 2015, Licton Springs K-8 and the Urban Native Education Alliance will be hosting a showing of the documentary Eaglestaff, which tells the story of Robert Eaglestaff celebrated Principal of Seattle's nationally-recognized Indian Heritage School.

The film will be at 6:00pm, in the Little Theater at the Lincoln Building, 4400 Interlake Avenue N (entrance on N43 Street). There will be a Q&A section with the filmmaker and graduates of the Indian Heritage School afterwards.

The public is welcome.

Also, here is the trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIJa2m1vCng

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, Jan. 5th
Community meeting with Director McLaren
6:00 PM - 7:45 PM at Delridge Branch Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW

Tuesday, Jan. 6th
Paramount Duty conversation at JSCEE from 6:30-8:30pm

The speakers are:
Tom Ahearne, the trial lawyer for the plaintiffs in the McCleary case, will speak on how Washington State is not meeting its “Paramount Duty” to fully fund education. He will also talk about the latest “contempt” decision on holding our legislators accountable.
Andrew Nicholas from the WA State Budget and Policy Center will talk about the challenges of financing basic education and the reforms to the revenue system that can make that possible.

Event is FREE, but seating is limited.  RSVP at: https://paramountduty2015.eventbrite.com
Wednesday, Jan 7th
School Board meeting, starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda

Big Bucks for Nyland in Seattle Schools' Superintendent Contract

Board agenda item link.  Actual contract link.
The proposed contract provides for an annual salary of $276,075 per year, plus an annual annuity contribution of $24,000 and monthly automobile allowance of $700. This is similar to the contract for Jose Banda, whose annual salary was $270,000, with the same additional benefits. The increase in the annual salary from that of Superintendent Banda at the time he left the District is 2.25% and is approximately equal to the weighted average of the salary increases received by all the categories of District employees (e.g., teachers, principals, other represented employees and classified employees). A review of other Washington school districts indicates this package is competitive with other highly paid superintendents of districts in the state. 

Communication Plan revision - again

Here is the latest version of the superintendent's 100-day (or 120-day) communication plan. You can find it in the Friday Memo to the Board for December 19, 2014.

You can compare this plan to the plan he outlined for KIRO on the day that he was offered his long-term contract. I gave details about that plan in this blog post: Communication Plan. They generally match up except that instead of completing elements of the plan on specific days he only says that he will start them on those days. He doesn't say when the work will be done - if ever. Consequently this plan is not an action plan but an inaction plan.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Troubling Transportation Cuts in SPS South End Elementaries

I will be reviewing the School Board agenda for the Board meeting coming up this week on Wednesday.  It looks like It looks like Concord, Roxhill and Graham Hill may be losing some of their bus service.  Transportation standards item from agenda here.  (The changes are fairly extensive as there is sunsetting of some standards.  One thing I wish that staff would do, especially for exceptions to standards for some schools, is explain WHY these schools get an exception.  There could be good reasons but again, when you are looking at equity issues lack of clarity doesn't help.)

And it appears there will be further cuts to Graham Hill.  I am puzzled by this especially for a school that has already had its share AND given serious safety concerns that parents have repeatedly brought before the Board.

There seems to be equity issues arising from the assignment plan in terms of how many options some parents are able to get their children to school, the safety of walk zones especially in terms of the lack of sidewalks and security problems.  (Another school soon to be affected by these problems will be the reopened Cedar Park Elementary.)

Why the Board does not see this - because all they need to do is ride the bus or walk the routes - I do not know.  (I do know that Rep. Gerry Pollet HAS done this in the Cedar Park area and if a state rep can take the time to do this, Board members can as well.)

Here's is some background info from one parent.

Addressing capacity crisis with new space

An article in the Seattle Times answered a question that has been itching me: "Where will new charter schools find space in Seattle?" And a closely associated question: "Why can't the school district find space?"

Summit charter high school acquired the Asian Resource Center for about $4 million and will put their 9-12 school there. Their first freshman class will enroll 120, so I have to believe that they expect to have upwards of 450 students when they are fully enrolled. I'm sure their charter school application has the correct number.

The building had been for sale for two years.

So, help me out here. This is a downtown building suitable for use as a school that has been for sale for two years for a fraction of the cost of the Federal Reserve building, and the District had either no knowledge of it or no interest in it. Can someone explain that to me? Moreover, the building is in the International District, which is the part of downtown with the greatest number of school-age children.

Is the school district even looking for space? And, if they are not, why not? If they are, then what spaces have they considered and why did they pass on this one?

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Times and "Wishful Thinking"

The Times starts off the year with their "headlines we'd like to see" contest.  Funny thing, their editorial doesn't even give the top reader winners' headlines but only the ones the Times wants to see.  (None of were about public education except for "No U.S. school shootings in 2015" which won first place.)

The Times calls their own headlines "wishful thinking" and they certainly are. Hey, look at that - four of them are about public education. 

Friday Open Thread

The district's website states that:
Logins to our websites and other systems will not be available Saturday, morning starting at 6 a.m. for planned maintenance. We will bring services back as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. 

Looks like Kansas will join Washington as a state where courts are finding that their legislature is not fully funding education.  Their case has now gone to their Supreme Court.  This "throwing more money at it" idea seems more and more off.  I think we can all agree that changes needs to happen but change - whether ed reform or common sense - DOES come with costs.

Good story from NPR on juvenile incarceration.  The overall numbers are going down but, as you would suspect, not for Hispanic/African-American youth AND the number of girls is going up.  The good news is that if there is outreach/supports, many of these kids will then "age out" of some behaviors that would have gotten them in trouble.

Other good story comes from NBC on the value of two 15-minute a day meditation sessions at a troubled middle and high school (the high school had been dubbed "the Fight School.")  Their suspension rates are down by 70% and test scores have risen modestly.  I wish more districts would embrace this thinking. 

What's on your mind?