Is Influence at Seattle Schools for Sale?

It appears that you can literally buy influence at Seattle Schools around who is selected as principal at any given school.  I have two examples.

One is the long-running saga of South Shore pre-k-8.  They have been receiving about $1M a year (about $1.5M before 2006) of support, first from the New School Foundation which was then absorbed into the League of Education Voters.

There was an item on the School Board meeting agenda last night to continue receiving these dollars for another two years.  Among other things, it was noted that the grant pays for lower class size and a school counselor (two things all elementary parents would very much like to have for their students).

The issue came up about the selection of principal at South Shore pre-k-8.  For the second time in a discussion on this issue (the first was at an Executive Committee meeting several weeks back), neither the principal nor the LEV reps clearly told the Board how their process works.  I waited last night for the principal, Laurie Morrison, to tell the Board that not only do LEV reps get to sit in on the school interviews for principal but they get their OWN separate interviews with the candidates (it's in the MOU with LEV).

Luckily, Director Sue Peters, who was calling into the meeting, read that section of the MOU aloud and asked about it.  Busted.  It was pretty amusing to see the principal go silent and then, after the discussion, exchange glances with the LEV reps.  (At the Ex Ctm meeting, no one brought it up.)  I find this disingenuous and troubling.  What's wrong with telling the Board the entire truth?

They were careful to say that LEV doesn't actually have a vote but c'mon,I'm sure they have plenty of influence on the outcome.

So that's $1M dollars worth of influence.

Then, we have the City who just this year attempted to influence - via their procedures for money allocation for the Families and Education Levy grants - who principals are at schools receiving those grants.  (We saw this play out in DEEL's recent attempts to take grant money from Sand Point and Emerson Elementaries. The money was first partially put back and now has been fully restored with conditions.)

Those grants were around $330K.

So just off-hand, I know that McDonald and JSIS, among at least 20 PTAs in the district, raise over $330K a year.

Does the investment of those dollars - which match what the City is driving in per school - give those parents the right to sit at the table and listen to/participate in principal interviews?

If not, why not?

What is the baseline dollar amount for SPS to allow any person or group access to principal selection?


Anonymous said…
LEV and the City have influence because they can pull funds.
If the parents at JSIS and MacDonald pull funds they'll have no immersion program ia's.
Does anyone know if the immersion ia's at Beacon Hill international are paid for by their PTA?

Haller Lakesider
Another Name said…
Special thanks to Melissa, Director Peters and Director Blanford for highlighting principal hiring and grants. I didn't know that LEV had a private interview with candidates.

The Family and Education levy was up for renewal. I didn't know that there was a performance component to the Family and Education Levy. The city holds-back dollars for performance. I would like to know more about this issue. Does this entail the district laying-out dollars and reimbursement?
Anonymous said…
Concerning the title =>

"Is Influence at Seattle Schools for Sale?"

One need look back at the School Board election of 2007 in which Martin-Morris, Carr, Sunquist, and Maier spent $480,000 to get elected and then examine the 4 years of decisions that followed....

Couple this with the statement in Crosscuts in 2011 after Maier lost to Peaslee that Maier (and the oligarchs) should have spent more $$$$ .

Definitely influence is for sale at a variety of levels in the SPS.

The only questions are
Who is buying?
and What are they buying?

Then we can progress to the same questions in regard to this state's and this nation's public schools.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
I just don't see any conspiracy around the issue. If you don't want the funds, then don't take them. If you do, then you need to understand the conditions and adhere to them. The whinny and complaining is getting old and will spoil it for others in the future.

Stop complaining
Anonymous said…
Stop Complaining raises an interesting point about conditions and adhering to them.

So my next question is "Who signs off on the conditions in these MOU agreements?"

I waited last night for the principal, Laurie Morrison, to tell the Board that not only do LEV reps get to sit in on the school interviews for principal but they get their OWN separate interviews with the candidates (it's in the MOU with LEV).

Luckily, Director Sue Peters, who was calling into the meeting, read that section of the MOU aloud and asked about it.

So who in the SPS signed off on the above MOU?

I well remember when TAF wished to be in Seattle but could not make it happen and went to Federal Way SD. This move was because Seattle could not accept an MOU on TAF I suppose.

If you can't trust the SEA and the SPS leadership, who can you trust?
MOU authors and signers?

-- Dan Dempsey
Haller, Beacon Hill's IAs are paid by ELL funds because the school has a high number of ELL students as well as F/RL students.

Another Name, both the Families and Ed levy AND the Preschool levy have performance money dollars held. Both give 75% of the dollars upfront and hold back 25%. At last night's Board meeting, Sharon Peaslee was quite sharp in her words and tone that this was NOT supposed to be the case for SPS participation.

Director Peters asked if maybe the Gates grant (that was originally said to be for use for the Bailey Gatzert preschool but now, apparently, is for any preschool use) could be used to backfill the 25%. No.''

Then Peters asked if, because the City and the District now have a signed participation agreement (which I don't think is the case for all other preschool entities), couldn't the 25% holdback be waived. She said, "SPS is not just any provider."

DEEL's Holly Miller came to the podium and said yes, SPS is very important to the preschool plan. She said, however, this is "mixed delivery" plan and lots of providers and all have to apply. She said there was debate "internallY' about equity in exempting the district but requiring the 25% holdback for others and they "could not do that." But, she said brightly, she has no doubts the District can meet the goals for the 25%.

I would say that's a confidence builder but not a legal opinion.

More on the discussion later.
Lynn said…
No no no. The district doesn't need city preschool classrooms and shouldn't be putting any K-12 dollars at risk for this. Also, if there is no financial benefit in participation, nobody on SPS payroll (including the Superintendent and Charles Wright) should be spending their time planning for preschool. No K-12 tax dollars can be diverted to preschool.

As for the classroom at Bailey Gatzert, the budget just passed in Olympia includes money for classroom size reduction. Why wouldn't BG use the preschool classroom for this?
Another Name said…
The city/district's work on this project is sloppy- at best. I wonder if the board is tired of documents that are "in development". The board signed the Partnership MOU. Shortly thereafter, the board learned about the 25% hold-back. The district offers the board documents that are "in development". Take a look at this documents that are "in development". Will there be any other surprises?:

There was a document - Exhibit B- that described performance goals that would be required for the city to provide the district with 25% performance pay. The items included, making sure teachers had a teaching pathway, health and developmental screenings for children, providing kindergarten enrollment forms to prek parents (translation would be needed) and a few other things. Who will work on contracts between health care screeners and prek? Who will work on contracts to conduct developmental screenings? Who is paying insurance for liability costs? Who would be responsible to translate documents for families?

Documents attached to introduction show costs to teachers, materials etc., but I'm not finding language that would reimburse the district for administrative costs.

The board was clear: K-12 funds could not be diverted to pre-K. Peters asked for this initiative to be reviewed in audit and finance, and operations. Peaslee felt the initiative was reviewed in Ex. Committee. Yikes.

The city is getting space for free, but I'm not seeing that the city is supporting the district's administrative structures.
Another Name said…
Has the city contributed funding for the amount of time Charles Wright has invested in the prek project? Has the city contributed funding for the amount of time facility administrators put into the prek initiative?

Another Name, Cashel Toner was asked - repeatedly - about when the documents will be complete. She's says they will but in early/mid-August and then the Board has to vote. Once again, the Board will be rushed and pressured and it's no way to make a decision like this.

Blanford did a nice job of setting up Holly Miller with softball questions that allowed her to agree with him.

As well, the amount of time various staff are working - and the Board now wants to hear from facilities, enrollment, etc. - is unbelievable. Almost as if the K-12 part wasn't the thing.

There were several oddities to what was being said. Toner has a very careful way of speaking but sometimes you realize she isn't really answering the question fully. In my public testimony, I had brought up the point that it is NOT clear that after Year One at B-G that only 3/4 year olds in that attendance area can get in.

So we may have - depending on how many SPS sites spring up - the City saying that they would like for these 3/4 year olds to matriculate to that school because "they're already part of the school and to not allow them to stay would be a shame."

I absolutely believe this will get brought up and it would throw the enrollment system out of whack to have preference for kids who went to pre-k at a certain school.

This truly needs to be watched.
mirmac1 said…
Interestingly, McDonald also gets an additional district-funded teacher, for "program considerations". Are they hurting somehow after that $550K PTA infusion?

South Shore gets another 1.5 FTE "to reduce kindergarten and 1st grad class size to 22:1" and "mitigation-program needs".... Again, is South Shore tapping the fund while other schools get no mitigation or WSS contingency funding?
mirmac1 said…
Guess we'll be ready for Start-of-(Pre)School in August. Now I see why Wright wanted those pricey consultants to "help" him do his job. Puh-leeze
mirmac1 said…
Yes, Melissa. We've seen how it is no big for SPS to yank SpEd preschoolers out of their nearby schools and ship them off to empty support facilities, only to be moved again later. But, gosh, got to reserve those seats for City schoolers from age 3 onward!

BTW, here are the wage rate changes assumed in the budget:

Job Code Job Code Desc Total Comp. 2015-16 Total Comp. 2014-15 Change
39406332 Elementary Sc Assistant $50,503 $49,237 2.6%
39406057 Admin Secre-Elementary $64,458 $61,398 5.0%
22101754 Elementary Principal I $157,492 $148,306 6.2%

39406319 Data Regi Assistant II $61,470 $58,604 4.9%
39406115 Asst Secretary-High-220 $56,214 $53,130 5.8%
39406063 Admin Secretary-High $76,461 $72,649 5.2%
25101036 Activity Coordinator $97,852 $94,844 3.2%
24101713 Librarian-High School $112,928 $106,977 5.6%
24201420 Counselor-High School $105,987 $103,865 2.0%
22401060 Asst Principal High Sc $153,534 $144,907 6.0%
22301756 High Sch Principal $175,293 $164,465 6.6%

39400155 Asst Secret MS-201-8hrs $50,949 $51,785 -1.6%
39406061 Admin Secretary-Middle $74,658 $73,046 2.2%
24201422 Counselor-Middle School $103,888 $99,141 4.8%
24101712 Librarian-Middle School $104,983 $99,215 5.8%
22401059 Asst Principal Mid $146,969 $137,671 6.8%
22301755 Mid School Principal $164,923 $153,796 7.2%

39406492 Counseling Secretary $50,572 $47,159 7.2%
39406151 Attenda Spec-High Sch $53,196 $53,086 0.2%
39406652 High Sch Fisc Spec-220 $63,881 $60,456 5.7%
23201210 Teacher-High School $95,952 $92,156 4.1%
23201230 Teacher-Vocational Ed $95,952 $92,156 4.1%

39406658 Fiscal Stkrm Clerk-Mid $54,651 $51,816 5.5%
39406150 Attendan Spec II-MS-201 $51,571 $50,054 3.0%
23201205 Teacher-Middle School $94,869 $90,751 4.5%
24001700 House Administrator $105,603 $97,896 7.9%

39106530 Instructional Asst $49,526 $48,987 1.1%
23101180 Teacher-Kindergarten $92,695 $89,195 3.9%
23101190 Teacher-Elementary $92,695 $89,195 3.9%
24101710 Librarian-Elementary $104,639 $101,606 3.0%
24201418 Counselor-Elementary $91,705 $89,226 2.8%
24001689 Head Teacher $100,419 $94,407 6.4%
22201058 Asst Principal Elementa $140,020 $131,159 6.8%

23301173-6 Teacher/Bilingual $97,873 $95,231 2.8%
39106860 Spec Ed Asst/ISE-201/7 $52,379 $50,213 4.3%
23301246-58 Teacher-Special Educa $92,741 $89,444 3.7%

Teacher increases are expected around 4% and principals 7%
Charlie Mas said…
What is the process for principal selection and assignment? It has NEVER been disclosed. It is neither transparent nor equitable since some school communities get a LOT of input on the principal selection decision and some school communities read about it in the newspaper.

What is the process? The Board has a right to know. Strictly speaking, the superintendent only recommends people for principal jobs, the Board appoints them.
Charlie Mas said…
I strongly encourage every PTA to establish an MOU with their school and to demand one that grants them privileges similar to the ones that LEV has at SouthShore.
Anonymous said…
Woah!!!! Those job salaries are way out of line. They must be fully burdened and counting all the bennies. Those aren't the salaries of ... anybody.

Anonymous said…
Just to be fair, those wage rates look like they are "total compensation" which would include the cost of benefits like health insurance. Benefits usually cost about 30% of salary, so the actual pay would be that amount times 0.7.

Anonymous said…
At Salmon Bay, close to the end of the hiring process of the interim principal, his boss held a closed meeting with the Director parents of the school's PTO. Two non-Director parents asked to sit in on the meeting as they were very interested in what was going to be shared. They were asked to leave and they did. They had no choice.

- different strokes
Anonymous said…
Mom of 2 wrote:

"Just to be fair, those wage rates look like they are "total compensation" which would include the cost of benefits like health insurance. Benefits usually cost about 30% of salary, so the actual pay would be that amount times 0.7.

Can someone check this out?

Seems at one time I remember top teaching salary with PhD and maximum experience was $85k. So likely higher now.

-- Dan Dempsey
JvA said…
I think Mirmac1 may have accidentally said "wage"; the top row of the table she provided says "Total Comp."
mirmac1 said…
Thanks JvA. And I should clarify that these are the rates applied to FTE when developing school budgets.
Anonymous said…
Given that they have the money, influence and power then why is that school is such a rag tag mess.

There are those who use the community center next door and we often discuss the state of the school and its reputation is not one well received. That and a conversation with the revolving door of both staff and administration does little to comfort prospective parents in the ever gentrifying area.

As they are a direct feeder to Rainier Beach with its fantastic IB program and now a Pre-K school they have a lot on their shoulders so you would think that they would ensure having a leadership in place that can manage all of the demands and it appears that over the years it has deteriorated and given the resources that seems odd. Yet down the road Aki Kurose a huge building is stable in comparison yet underenrolled why is that?

- Lives in RB
Anonymous said…
Wow with those salaries, why is our school PTSA paying for teacher professional development. It seems the teachers could pay for it on their own as it will end up increasing their salary.
Anonymous said…
Are those salaries for real? Really? The principal who cannot or will not lead special education in her building effectively and who creates a situation where the district is paying out half a million bucks in compensatory education, is making $150,000 year? Where can I sign up? Well wow. What a great place to work. All you have to do is nothing.

Mad taxpayer
JvA said…
Again, those aren't salaries. Those are total compensation figures, with health, retirement, etc., benefit costs included.
Anonymous said…
Well Mad Taxpayer, that doesn't count the executive director who is costing 200G and the sped "program consultant", nor the sped supervisor... or the more than 100 other central staffers gorging at the trough. And yet, all those employees, but nobody to teach the kids. Sounds like we need sped vouchers.


mirmac1 said…
For real salaries, got to OSPI and look at the S275.

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