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.


Watching said…
Pettigrew now claims that others have co=sponsored his bill to appoint school board members.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
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Ann D said…
I think SPS needs to clean house. When individual schools aren't even using the standardized field trip forms prepared by downtown you know that nothing really works as it should.
Ann, I would agree. Fully fund ed per McCleary and a cleaning of the headquarters would do wonders.

The whole thing does not need to be upended.

I believe they will open an Pandora's box if they do this.
David said…
I'm not so sure the district needs to clean house so much as change the culture to one of efficiency, service, and compliance.

Right now, most schools, teachers, and parents view the district HQ as a hindrance to their school. Everyone tries to keep their heads down, avoid district staff, and work around the roadblocks HQ puts in their way.

What we need is for Nyland to change the origination. District administration should see their job as serving and helping teachers and the school. Efficiency should mean reducing work for teachers to get their jobs done and letting principals run their schools. District staff and management ever being out of compliance with law or Board policy should be seen as unacceptable, a firing offense. Nyland needs to focus on creating a well run organization.

Whether that can be done with current staff or not is an interesting question. My view is that SPS doesn't need to clean house so much as that Nyland needs to indicate what is and is not acceptable in his organization.

I do think that, if Nyland did this, a lot of the dissatisfaction with the district HQ would disappear, and so would these legislative actions born from that dissatisfaction.
Another Thought said…
Let's watch the Alliance for Education, Ed Murray, LEV and Tim Burgess get their initiatives embedded into two or three strategic plans. Clearly, they would have a lot more difficulty and this is a good thing.
Anonymous said…
Westbrook you are flip flopping. Just a few months back you where for splitting the district as long as it wasn't split into 4. What have you changed your mind.

Pete S.
Nope, never was for splitting the district.
Anonymous said…
You did write that in a comment. I will find it unless you deleted it.
Go back and look are your posted comments.

Pete S.
Anonymous said…
Given the depths of their basic ineptitude and propensity at finding opportunities for personal and professional aggrandizement, I am heartened the central staff's ability to produce this communication. At least they figured it out correctly, and knew a rat when they smelled one! And, were able to turn around the position quickly. Imagine if they did that all the time.

Anonymous said…
@Pete S. - Perhaps you were referring to the post on July 23, 2013 titled "Is the Seattle School District too big?" The post sought to elicit thoughts from the readers and in the comments, Melissa clarifies, "Just to be clear, I'm just asking. I have no idea what the general public thinks or how to do it or what Board directors (or perspective [sic] ones) think."

Dreaming said…
A poster indicated that SPS is being referred to as SPS 2. I can only hope Santos-Tomiko has the state in the John Stanford Center and rifiling through rafts of documents for a potential split. Whether or not the split would happen, I can only hope that a suggestion of a split would allow the state into the hallowed halls of the John Stanford Center.
Anonymous said…
I have shared the proposal, what little details are now available, with parents at kid sporting events yestrday and today. One parent with kids at private schools said 'huh' -what would that mean and what do you think? The universal response from public school parents? "Good" followed by variations on the district being too big, lack of customer service, central staff as noose around necks of local schools, hope for better and more specialized programming in local schools.

North mom
TechyMom said…
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TechyMom said…
Too many typos...

I spent a long drive thinking about this idea yesterday. My guess is that this split would be good for the north district and not make much difference in the south. Why?

The north would be a middle class district with pockets of poverty and wealth, a lot like Shoreline or Lynnwood. Districts like that are not interesting to reformers. They're also a lot easier to run, so need less admin staff. They get to focus on boring day-to-day management. Its biggest problem would be raising funds for new schools to handle a growing population. Would it be able to raise a levy in just its district?

The south would have all the problems it has now: High income inequality, rich kids in private school, poor kids targeted by various do-gooder strategic initiatives to fix generational poverty on the cheap, middle class ignored and pretty much screwed.

Everybody gets 5 more years of churn.
Patrick said…
Techymom, I agree about the south end, but the north end would have trouble too. Assuming the line was the Ship Canal, all taxes on downtown real estate would go to the south end, also the taxes from expensive real estate in Queen Anne, Magnolia, Volunteer Park, and Madison Park. The south end still has some neighborhoods with space in the schools; the north end is already very crowded in every school. The north end would probably vote for more bonds or levies, but is already at the levy lid. So what's next, a whole lot of bake sales to condemn a few blocks of expensive houses through eminent domain?
Anonymous said…
What would happen to students currently enrolled in option schools or attending schools out of their neighborhood (Garfield comes to mind)?

We should demand a full fiscal analysis be done before this moves any further. People assume the North end district would be prosperous and flush with cash, but in reality, they would have a very hard time funding the additional capacity our booming neighborhoods need. And the south end district would have its own challenges, as they have the vast majority of the Title I schools and benefit - rightly so! - from tax revenues collected in other parts of the city.

Ultimately we should be working to kill this, but demanding a fiscal analysis helps show that 1) this isn’t well thought out and 2) this has huge downsides to neighborhood schools all over the city.
Anonymous said…
If West Seattle were broken off from SPS would the rest be under the 35,000 threshold? That is a split that I think coukd get some support. The north/south economic differences mirror Seattle on a smaller scale. Could be equitable.

WS parent
Lynn said…
West Seattle parents won't support this. We send around 450 high school students to schools located off the peninsula and we would not be willing to lose that option. Even if we liked the idea, we don't have the tax base to support our schools. The tax base is downtown.

This is just a ridiculous idea no matter how you draw the lines. If Santos had done any research she'd realize this. Seattle is not a large school district. And people don't choose to live in Seattle because they want small town options for their kids.
Watching said…
West Seattle parents won't support this. We send around 450 high school students to schools located off the peninsula "


Please tell me more about this. Do you have supporting documents?
Lynn said…
Here's a comparison of enrollment and attendance areas.

High school data is on page 28. I missed the 35 Middle College students - most of them are likely in the program at High Point.

Middle school data is on page 24. 130 of those students attend schools outside of West Seattle.

Info on Madison service area elementary students begins on page 11 and on Denny area elementary students on page 3.
Anonymous said…
I didn't raise my kids in the city so they could have a small town educational experience or live in an exclusive, rich enclave. I did it for just the opposite reasons.

That a divisive proposal like this, which, once again, for the thousandth time, pits one group against another instead of uniting them, gets any positive feedback is not only depressing, but dysfunctional for the city. We need more unification between North and South, not less.

David has it right above. I don't think we need a house-cleaning either. I think we need LEADERSHIP. And we haven't had more than token leadership and BS since Stanford passed away, and even he lacked the Educational background SPS needs.

The Broad Institute-driven CEO style SI management mirrored the cost-cutting, corporate management style of 1980's hostile takeover/leveraged-buyout era, and it was an abject failure. Such "performance" management schemes were doomed to fail and did fail. And they were all about breaking things up, streamlining management, etc., but instead they bloated administration with non-education people or educational dilettantes.

With Nyland, we have a real chance, with a Seattle native and an experienced SI to focus on the basics and improve things at JSCEE for the first time in a long time.

And the absolute last thing we need as a district is yet more churn and change. The Ed Reformers version of "change" has held us back and continues to do so right now. The last thing we need is to double-down on it.

Anonymous said…
I welcome anything new at this point. Enough is enough. It can't happen soon enough for me.

shuter down
Anonymous said…
You CAN'T have a more Bloated administration than SPS. SPS has the highest administrative cost per student in the nation.

Please stop flailing around and drown already.

shuter down

The urban league's open check book is about to be taken away. Praise be to Jesus, now where the free lunch?
Patrick said…
In the nation, really? Documentation?
K. said…
KPLU and HB 1497
Anonymous said…
Shuter down and Patrick,

I can't find any documentation that SPS has the highest administrative cost per student in the nation, in fact, there is evidence otherwise.

Even in Washington state, Bellevue and Tacoma pay more per student for central administration, and they are a smaller districts.

See this document:

What skews our school funding picture dramatically is what Washington State is funding per student and what is made up by local levy dollars and other sources.

On aggregate the state is spending only $6,563 per student which is only 66% of the total. The variation by district as too how much is covered by the State and how much by other sources is rather dramatic.

The state is only funding 55% of SPS per student costs now. SPS is getting only $6,819 per student from the State, but spending over $10k.

Check here:

Further, the tiniest districts in our state cost in some cases $20-40k per student. Many of them being funded by the State at 80% or so.

It all comes back to the fact that the State is not meeting its Paramount duty, IMHO.

And frankly SPS is getting the shortest end of the stick of almost all of the districts in the State, particularly on a per student basis.

Anonymous said…
Another article that might be of interest to folks that came out recently is:

"Districts in the South and West tended to spend less than their counterparts in the Northeast, which is consistent with the state-level findings. New York City public schools spent the most on their students -- $20,226 per pupil -- while Alpine School District in Utah spent a low of $5,412 per pupil."

Watching said…

Thank you. Do you have links for small Washington State districts that receive $20K per student?
Anonymous said…
Here's a good chart from OSPS ( based on 2012-2013 data) showing General Fund Expenditures, Revenue, and Ending Total Fund Balance Per Pupil by Enrollment

Per pupil by enrollment

Anonymous said…
KUOW had Sherry Carr on this afternoon. She said board members will go to Olympia to testify against both measures.

Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting that Reader 47. That is the same data I found on the OSPI website within the link I posted, but in order to pull the data you have to drill down a bit.

And, your sheet is organized in such a way that one can see the magnitude of cost/revenue differentiation by district.

As is shown in the sheet you posted, there are 43 separate districts with under 100 students each. Their total per student costs range between 10k and 52k. Skykomish is the highest costs are more than ivy league tuition for a year. They have 34 students and spent $1.8 million.

And while Seattle is at the higher end of costs per student in the state, I wonder if some of the costs that are included are actually costs related to building and renovating new schools, which would skew the picture for $s going to students as opposed to $s going to build buildings.

I've got a question into OSPI to find out what is included in their "district wide support" program. There is $500 million in "Purchased Services" that makes me wonder if costs related to capital projects aren't getting lumped into the operating budget.

If anyone here knows the answer to that already, please do share.

Po3 said…
"She said board members will go to Olympia to testify against both measures."

Glad they are doing this.

Sad they have to do this as it just takes them away from the doing the work of educating K-12 SPS students.

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Anonymous said…
Bring on the split! It can't come soon enough. We need to disrupt the current structure or nothing will change. I'm surprised so many are against it.
-Been around the block
Anonymous said…
It's apparent people here do not understand what administrative cost are. The gross yearly expenditure in SPS per student is ruffly $20,000 with many schools PTAs contributing up an additional $100K +. SPS has ruffly 5,400 employees, yet only 2,100 teachers. That makes the administrative head count ruffly 3,300 employees. BTW be sure to include the long term employee obligations when you do the math, like pensions and retirement health insurance.

It is very difficult to obtain anything close to the real numbers, but I think there's a report out there on the internet from 2012 with a good estimate and how the district compares.

You seem to have forgotten a few categories, there are counselors, teacher aide, office staff, janitorial staff, school psychologists, lunch room staff, maintenance staff, technology support staff, etc.

While your math is correct, your categories need refinement.

Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
"We must burn the village to SAVE it!"

Divide, conquer. Divide, conquer. Divide, conquer. Everybody!

KPMOM said…
I'm for localized control of schools. Top down wastes too much money where it's least effective--at the top. Communities, teachers, principals know what's best for the children in their own schools.
mirmac1 said…
Last night Betty Patu expressed great frustration with continued delays in improving the plight of students in her district. She singled out special education in particular.

It seems there's been an undercurrent of discontent and discussion among some regarding a split of the district. Based on what I've seen of the City, LEV and Road Map clique, they would love to stoke discontent. Then they'll ride in like the white knights they profess to be.
Anonymous said…
Patu's district? There's only one district. Patu needs to get her stories straight. The last I heard from Patu she was claiming students of color where being forced in to SPED, now she worried about the unforced SPED students, or is it still only the forced SPED students of color.

Why is every issue from south of the canal always about color?

This is exactly why the district needs to be broken into smaller more manageable sizes and why we need smarter board members.

geter done
Just Saying said…
You won't see LEV, DFER or the Alliance for Ed talk about these numbers:

'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"

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