Ron English - Part Two

As you may recall, I said there were peripheral issues that I found in the public disclosure e-mails.  Let's go thru them.
One troubling e-mail is from Linda Sebring to Ken Gotsch in early Feb. 2015:

Subject: RE: HB1497 - redistricting Seattle

Date: Wednesday, February 04, 2015 7:42:22 AM
Since this is about redistricting we will probably need to bring either Ron English or Erin Bennet into the discussion. Those are the positions in the district who have handled redistricting processes in the past. I will have Victoria in the budget office put together estimated savings from reducing election costs by two positions. 

Mr. Gotsch's reply (if any) was not part of the e-mail batch.

Ms. Sebring is Finance and Operations Director for the District and this was barely in the Legislature and yet she thought they all needed to get right on it.  

And she seemingly counts her chickens by wanting to see how much money would be saved by having fewer school board directors.  (Except that with two districts with at least  3-5 board members each, you might not even realize a savings.)

Then there's the To-Do list that Michael Tolley sent to himself.  There were the usual kinds of things you might think you'd see from someone in his position but three things did stand out:

5. Talk to the EDS's about Ron English's email regarding OCR discipline investigation.

9. Use online resources to begin draft of independent study course proposal
10. Ask Delinda to schedule a meeting with Dr. Winbush for Friday morning to discuss strategies for addressing the needs of African-American males in Charleston County Schools.

That e-mail from English to the Executive Directors might be interesting to read.

Independent study course proposal might be for blended learning or homeschooling, I don't know.  I personally would not think this one of the top things for Mr. Tolley to be doing but then again, I always wonder about what senior staff priorities are.

He wanted to meet with Dr. Winbush (who is Associate Superintendent in Charleston) to talk about strategies for AA males in Charleston? He doesn't say anything about Seattle School students. Hmm.

Then there was the e-mail about student data. This was about a grant with the Johns Hopkins University and the Dept. of Education with the District for a 4-year project to help 8th graders make the transition to high school.  It was approved at the last Board meeting; the grant is for just over $1M. 

So what's the problem?  The grant summary says that they will do student and parent surveys yearly.  (As well, somehow they plan to track how many times the parent use the student portal to check grades.) 

But Matt Okun, in the AL department saw a problem and writes to Dr. Marcia Gentry at Johns Hopkins and Stephen Martin, head of AL.  (No, I don't know why he write to Martin and not Bernardo Ruiz who appears to be managing this project from the district side.)  Bold mine.

Dr. Gentry,

Stephen and I received this reply from Legal:


I just spoke to Ron English about your dilemma and he indicated that the only solution that he sees is to have active consent for all participating students. We understand that other districts across the nation are more flexible with FRL data, but the law is clear in that its release is very restricted.

Sorry if this is not the news you were hoping for. But, Marcia, I got to speak to them in person and was given some suggestions. One option, obviously, would be to collect individual permission slips to share the data. We assume that that is an almost insurmountable problem. A second option, though, is that we were informed that there are at least a few schools that receive free lunches for ALL students. 

Tomorrow I have a meeting with nutrition services to verify that info, and to uncover how many schools that actually is. At least, then, we could perhaps include all of those students in the study. There are also many schools in the District that are Title One designated which are low-SES populations, but many could be as “low” as 75%. But I assume that that number is too low to be useful for your purposes. I will send you another update tomorrow. Thanks for your patience with all of this “drama”.

Matt Okun, Instructional Specialist 

Consulting Teacher 
Advanced Learning Office

I will be sure to ask for an explanation of this one. 

One odd e-mail is from Richard Best to Capital staff about soil testing services for BEX projects, dated Feb. 5, 2015.  He says, 
"Please see e-mail below and advise.  I concur with Ron English, why not advertise for all of the BEX IV projects and select the same firm.  Reports with (sic) then be standardized and easily understood.
(English's actual e-mail was redacted for attorney-client privilege.)

While Mr. Best might be correct on the ease of using just one firm, I don't know if putting out one RFP for all the projects necessarily serves taxpayers if you could get a better price per project from several firms. He says anything about cost.  Likewise, if the district wanted one format for the reports, couldn't they just put that in the RFP?  

Again on BEX projects, this one about JAMS, talking about crawl space inspection. (Mr. Carlson is a outside service provider for SPS for hazardous materials survey/testing.  Mr. Hogman is the project manager for JAMS.  Mr. Tam is an architect at the firm of Hutteball& Oremus.)

From: Rich Carlson
To: Hogman, Scott M
Cc: Calvin Tam

Subject: Re: JAMS Crawl Space

Date: Friday, February 06, 2015 11:56:27 AM


The requirements for working in the crawlspace/tunnel areas are already in the document in Section 01 11 10, 1.05, N., and 1.11. It's just the removal of potentially contaminated soils from within the crawlspace that we will need to address.
I don't think calling the crawlspace/tunnel areas a "clean space" is a road we want to go down. Sending workers into a confined space with a known asbestos hazard without requiring a minimum of awareness training and negative exposure assessments would be unwise. Even at schools with all concrete tunnels and no damage/debris associated with pipe insulation we include these same requirements. I don't think we could get that by Ron English or Richard Staudt.

Per the specifications, each individual contractor can choose to perform a negative exposure assessment on workers performing the required work for the first couple shifts and determine if they want to downgrade their PPE.

 This is fairly routine practice for us, I currently have 3 other projects (Broadview Thompson, Eckstein, and Salmon Bay) with the exact same requirements. If there where contractors working in the crawlspace/tunnel areas without the required PPE, I was unaware of it. The only exception would be the mechanical sub who performed the negative exposure assessment in the first week and decided to go without.

This is actually a good news e-mail because it appears Mr. Carlson wants to err on the side of both the workers and protecting the district.  But it made me uneasy that the project manager thought to even ask if a crawl space could be called "clean space."


Anonymous said…
You made these emails out to be a lot more salacious than they actually are. This district has seen its fair share of scandals and impropriety from staff, but I wouldn't say that is what we are seeing here. These just seem like people trying to do their jobs:

Redistricting was crazy, but doing due diligence for the cost of it seems fine.

Tolley's to-do list doesn't seem unreasonable. Blended learning, whether we like it or not, is going to be more and more a part of instruction in the 21st century. I don't have a problem with him having a brief conversation with another school district's admin to share ideas. Perhaps they met at a conference and promised to follow up?

Like you said yourself, looks like the email about the crawl space was SPS actually doing the right thing and protecting both the workers and the district.

The one thing I do agree with is that privacy concerns should not just be a privilege for the wealthy while FRL kids have information released.

SEA Monkey
mirmac1 said…
Disclosed emails open a peephole into the inner workings of the District. Seeing just a few is not the same as reviewing 500pg pdfs of emails. One gets a strong sense of staff priorities and strategies - some good some bad.
SEA, I didn't make them salacious. I used words like "troubling"and that's nowhere near "salacious."

I don't agree with any of your suppositions on these e-mails but you are entitled to your opinion.

Tolley may have just been following up but it seems mighty strange that he didn't include SPS students in that note.

I think Mirmac1 has it right.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
I agree with Richard Best, it's better to do one RFP for all of the schools in a single BEX round than do multiple RFPs. You have hidden costs per each RFP that are significant, plus you have hidden costs in bringing each additional vendor that wins a contract up to speed with what is going on. My belief is that environmental is one of those areas that you want to have as tight of a working relationship with your contractor as you can get, and that it's not nearly as plug and play as a general, mechanical or electrical contractor is.

Do not be surprised if PBS Environmental on Eastlake wins all of this work.

--Fremont Dad
Anonymous said…
Perhaps the "independent study course proposal" on Tolley's list is one possible strategy for dealing with the impending high school capacity crunch and/or the upcoming 24-credit requirement. With more kids and more requirements, it's going to harder to provide sufficient opportunities for everyone to get the on-site classes they need. Increased access to independent study options--e.g., online classes and independent research projects--might be one piece of the solution.

(And if that is what he's working on, I hope he builds in support at the middle school level, too. If a middle school can't provide a class at the appropriate level for a kid, they should be allowed to stay on campus for an independent study period if they want.)

HIMS, good points.
Anonymous said…
Talk about bait and switch...Where's the good stuff on RE? This doesn't rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors I'm looking for.

MJ, not bait and switch. This is part two. You need to read part one about Ron.
Anonymous said…
MJ and Sea Monkey seem like the troll that has closed several post but regardless they aren't happy with RE being

Just Sayin'
mirmac1 said…
MJ, d'ya got any to offer up? Are you expecting Melissa to lay it all out for ya? Sorry, not enough time or energy. Do you think the Seattle Times offers up a truly unbiased report based on facts? I spoke with them for some time on a recent story, but they just wanted a sound bite that went along with their predetermined objective.

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