Seattle Preschool Agreement with Seattle Schools - No

I'll lead with this - I urge you to write to the Seattle School Board and tell them to say NO to the agreement witht he City's preschool plan at Wednesday night's Board meeting.

I'll say right now that if this is approved, the district will rue the day they signed onto it.  It is NOT in the best interests of the district and gives the City much more power and control than is necessary.

It is a difficult thing to keep up with the machinations of the City and certain SPS staff over the agreement with the City to allow their program to be part of about 12 SPS preschools (both new to SPS facilities and ones currently operating under other providers). 

I will note that Director Peters wrote an amendment believing the Agreement had been ironed out by the time the Executive Committee met.  Indeed, if you look at the version presented at that meeting, you can see the strike-outs and rewrites.

But the current version on the Board meeting agenda for this Wednesday?  The Agreement has been altered in very substantial ways since the Executive Committee meeting last Thursday.

(As well, the exhibits are not yet available and it is just ridiculous.)

As well, this is what the head of Early Learning, Cashel Toner, told the members of the Executive Ctm last Thursday (partial but to my point):

You may feel frustrated that some things have been moving too fast, or that this process hasn’t been perfect, when you feel this way remember: This is new work for two large, complex organizations…and that this is the right work. This work aligns to our strategic plan, it is research based, and it is courageous work. 

Look, it IS the job of the Board to hold up the stop sign if things are "moving too fast" and/or if they believe all the concerns, both their own AND from the public, have not been addressed.  That's not asking for "perfect" from anyone; that's doing their duly-elected job.

But the big news is that SPS staff erred in how they presented the issue of an Agreement to the Board.  They have - all along - made it sound like the Board had to agree to the plan.  Here's what Toner told the Board:

When we shared the documents with you in June we said that we would share boiler plate information prior to your approval of the document. We learned that we spoke prematurely. The boiler plate language that we typically develop with the Families and Education Levy does not require approval. We will email you draft boiler plate language after this evening but your approval is not required to make a decision about the Seattle Preschool Program on 8/19 or to accept the terms and conditions in the document. I apologize for the confusion. We had lengthy conversations to understand the various documents and how they relate to one another. After our review of the documents and our past practice, this document does not go to the board for approval. 

What they DO want the Board to approve is accepting the City money for the program, not approving the agreement.  

So let's see what has changed in this Agreement from Thursday to yesterday.
1)   pages 4-5 - HUGE student privacy issue here.  They note that "student education" (I think they left off the word "files" because it was there in the last version) will be kept separately from student health records that the district created based on City requirements.  It's a "screen" of things like Early Screening Inventory.  However, the way it is worded - vaguely worded - it says the district will also maintain "current and confidential health files on all enrolled children."

The issue is - as it has been - is that FERPA and HIPAA do NOT overlap.  Those health files?  If they are created at school, they fall under FERPA and that means the district or City could decide who gets to see that information.

2) It appears that the district, unlike other providers, will NOT be eligible to apply for "City funding for facilities improvements, et. al."  So free rent AND the District isn't eligible for these funds?

3) The Termination section? Gone.  And this was something that President Carr went on and on about, both at the last Board meeting and the Executive Ctm meeting - that if it wasn't working, the district could get out.

The original language said that either party could terminate the agreement at the end of a quarter term with 60 days notice.  And,
In addition, the District may terminate this Agreement at any time if it determines that such action is necessary for the health, safety, or education of students or staff.
A very clear out.  But the new version? Gone, completely gone.

What is there is under Dispute Resolution:
Both parties agree that in instances that may arise due to unforeseen conflicts between District and City policies, procedures, and/or practices, the District and City will meet in good faith to resolve the conflict and come to a mutually agreeable resolution.
Sorry but for a pilot program in a cash-strapped, capacity-challenged district that should be a big NO. 

4) What they added was a section on "Quality of Performance:"
At any time during the term of the Agreement, if the Director determines the Agency is not performing the Work in a manner likely to achieve the outcomes and indicators established in the Agreement, the Director and District senior administration will meet to develop a plan for corrective action is necessary for the health, safety, or education of students or staff. with a timeline to address identified concerns in Work performance. Failure to follow the terms of the corrective action plan shall constitute a material breach of the Agreement and cause for termination in the City’s discretion as described in Section 550 of the General Terms and Conditions.
 The district is the "Agency" in this case and (Big Daddy) City is the one in control.  Of programs that DEEL's Holly Miller told the Board are "the district's programs."  Not by a long shot.

This is no partnership between two governing entities in a city.  This is a hard, cold business deal and one that the district is getting the raw end. 

This is not right.

It is not fair to the Board Directors (three of whom were NOT at the Executive Committee meeting, did NOT hear the discussion and may not even be aware of the changes.

It is not fair to parents or the public who may be trying to track this issue who deserve the right to have information in a judicious manner.  I should not be the public's last stand for timely information.

To the other issues:

1) K-12 is the district's state-required and state-funded mandate.  That our district struggles with mission should tell us all something.  Would having more students come into kindergarten better prepared help that mission?  Of course, but this is a pilot for a completely new (and longer day) preschool program. I do agree that it has to start somewhere but the district cannot allow the City's desires to take control over what the district does.

2) While having preschools on-site facilitates the flow to kindergarten, some truly disturbing things have been said about that.  From previous Executive Committee minutes at a meeting held in the spring (I had this in a previous thread):

Ms. Toner noted some of the project-based learning that is successful for 3-4 year old children, sometimes take a shift in practice, and can help students surface what their interests are, which is considered a “shifting practice” for some teachers. Mr. Knapp noted one of the techniques for dealing with that kind of phenomenon is to have the preschool teacher move up with kids therefore there is not an adjustment period, which is not necessarily required, but may be a best practice to look into. 
Wait,what?  It would appear that Ms. Toner is saying that kindergarten teachers will need some kind of professional development in "shifting" and that the City's way of teaching is somehow better than what SPS is currently doing?  And Knapp is saying that may preschool teachers should become kindergarten teachers? 

3) Facilities.  The City initially said this:

WHEREAS, the District has desirable facilities for preschool instruction and expertise in the education of Seattle’s youth and many convenient locations for families conducive for preschool instruction;  
Yes, those district locations are highly desirable AND convenient.  Especially when you don't have to pay rent.
I'll pause here to explain that there is Board policy on the use of buildings.  The policy is not news to me to how it has played out is.  Apparently, our district - our cash-strapped district - does not charge any of the preschool or before-and-after school groups/companies rent for district space. 
Not one single dollar.  The district does not charge rent so naturally, the City thinks it shouldn't be charged either.  It certainly does help their bottom line and you have to wonder who, at the district side, is worrying about the district's bottom line.  There was not one single word from senior staff at the Executive Committee meeting about thinking about charging rent to anyone.

Q: How will Seattle Schools prioritize space use?
A: Seattle Schools is developing a menu of options for prioritizing limited space for K-12 needs. We expect to have a draft of this document at the Executive Committee meeting next week.

Here's that menu and if you can tell me exactly what it means, I'd appreciate it. Because it says a lot of things but it really doesn't give much real understanding of "prioritization."

Seattle Public Schools has several challenges in trying to meet the needs of all students within our current buildings. However, the physical capacity of our buildings is not able to continue to house all current preschool providers, before and after care providers and meet our K-12 instructional needs. Future use of classroom space needs to be thoroughly vetted and prioritized before approving use that might otherwise be needed for K-12 instruction. To that end, the following is a draft list of prioritization based on policy, agreements and past practice(s) for leased spaces.

1) Seattle Public Schools P-12 programs – This applies to all Seattle Public School programs from Special Education Preschool to 18-21 year-old transition programs. The number one priority is for enrolled Seattle Public School Students.

2) Pre-School Providers – Because preschool requires dedicated space (and licensing); there are limited options for running a program within Seattle Public Schools buildings. Preschools have been allowed in several buildings and all preschools located within SPS buildings fall under the Community Alignment Initiative.

a. Seattle Pre-School Program (SPP).

b. Non-SPP
3) Before and After Care Providers – Before and After Care providers have a bit more flexibility in

where they may be able to have their program within a building. Before and after care also requires areas of use to be licensed as such, but they can and do occur in multi-use spaces throughout some of our buildings. The one caveat to this is that the current Joint Use Agreement with the Seattle Parks Department does have Parks prioritized after SPS programs in terms of hourly rental agreements. I believe the main concern would be around secondary gymnasium use, especially in the winter months.


Anonymous said…
Nice work Melissa,

It will be interesting to see how the Board votes on moving control of children's education further away from the grass roots level. Does anyone need more bureaucratic oversight?

How would the city's knowledge of education contribute anything positive?

-- Dan Dempsey
Calling BS said…
All documents have been "in development". Private industry would never present such shoddy work to their board of directors.

Calling BS, I totally agree.

And like I said, the exhibits to this item aren't even available (not even to the Board). How can this be right?
Calling BS said…

P. 3. Has the city inserted themselves into SEA agreements/ contract negotiations via P3 or P5 alignment? If so, this is enormous.

"The City and District will work collaboratively to achieve agreement with
SEA in these three areas recognizing the need for timely completion."

City shifts health screenings onto district. Language regarding liability insurance-gone.

Termination clause is gone- except for the city:

"Failure to follow the terms of the corrective action plan shall constitute a
material breach of the Agreement and cause for termination in the City’s discretion as
described in Section 550 of the General Terms and Conditions."

Exhibits are not attached to document.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, this post is very alarming and sounds like there are only 2 days (during mid-August when many people are on vacation) to contact the Board. Do you have any inkling on how the Board members stand on approving this Agreement?

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LAP, from what I heard and saw at the Executive Committee meeting (and that was Sharon Peaslee, Marty McLaren, Betty Patu and Sherry Carr - the others were likely at the A&F meeting held at the same time elsewhere), it seems Carr is all in. I think this is her swan song and damn the torpedoes. It is very disappointing. (Ditto on Blanford who seems to be the City's sounding board when he asks questions of them that he already knows the answers or is confirming.)

Carr was kind of patronizing to Director Patu's question on rent - making her wait to ask it. As I said in my thread, Patu wasn't even notified about how most of the flipping preschools are in her district. I think Betty is a likely no.

McLaren asked a few questions; I think she is worried. But she also is very suggestible so I can't say for sure. I would think this would be a hard vote for her given she's running for office.

Sharon Peaslee asked the most questions. She is clearly worried about the district being on the hook for the 25% holdback. Staff and Carr twisted themselves into a pretzel answering but it still did not seem clear to Peaslee. And if the answer isn't clear, then something IS probably wrong.

Martin-Morris is a likely yes (even though, after nearly 8 years, he should know better).

I think Peters - as usual - will be asking the thoughtful questions.

I think there are two no's and two yes' - I can't say for certain what Peaslee or McLaren will do.
Anonymous, deleting your comment (but doing you the favor of reposting - no anonymous comments, please):

"When we shared the documents with you in June we said that we would share boiler plate information prior to your approval of the document. We learned that we spoke prematurely. The boiler plate language that we typically develop with the Families and Education Levy does not require approval. We will email you draft boiler plate language after this evening but your approval is not required to make a decision about the Seattle Preschool Program on 8/19 or to accept the terms and conditions in the document. I apologize for the confusion. We had lengthy conversations to understand the various documents and how they relate to one another. After our review of the documents and our past practice, this document does not go to the board for approval. "

But this is not FEL, is it? So why do they think the FEV rules apply?

These are not FEL rules ; staff is merely saying, "this is how we do it with FEL." I agree with you that it seems like a bit of tortured logic.

I simply say that to ask the Board to just take the money and trust staff and the City to iron out the details - without all the details presented and being changed just days before the Board meeting - is wrong.

Anonymous said…
I'm afraid I'm too shocked and dismayed to even bother writing another letter. They don't care. They double speak. We can't get a new board in fast enough, and staff if trying to ensure that they get the rubber stamps before that board takes the stage.

No termination clause? WHAAAAA???

My prediction: Peaslee and McLaren will be both aye votes because it really doesn't matter if it is backasswards and against policy-- BUT IT's FOR THE KIDS!!!

Maje said…
I admit that I agree with ARGH> and am so disappointed with this whole process that I wonder what good my email will actually do. Big money is pushing this through and people are up for election. It's hard to find a niche for a parent to have their voice heard through that.
Anonymous said…
The termination issue is a big one, as is the suggestion that the District sign without having read and agreed to the Exhibits. But I am confused on another point -- when they got rid of any reasonable termination provision, did they also get rid of the "term" of the agreement? Is this for one year? Two? Three? Fifty? It reads to me like a veritable Hotel California -- where the District can never leave (unless the City terminates for breach). Here are my thoughts (yes, I will put them in an email as well).

1. The Agreement needs to state how long it is designed to last. If it is annually terminable with an evergreen clause, both sides need to figure out when they would be in a position to say whether they want to go forward for another year, and how much time they need from the other side if they do, or don't, continue.

2. To that end, there needs to be a termination provision that lets both sides out of the arrangement -- at least at the end of each school year -- and on shorter notice if there are breaches of the contract. Obviously, if one side can terminate for breach, the other side needs to be able to as well. What if the City breaches the confidentiality clause with respect to collected data? Or fails to do the required training? Or operates in bad faith in the many areas where collaboration is required? Both sides, not just the City, need to be able to protect their public responsibilities by ending this arrangement on short notice if it doesn't work. If they want to discuss in good faith, mediate, etc. etc., whatever -- that is fine. But this simply cannot be a "no out" deal.

3. Is the monetary compensation for a single year? One would think so from reading the contract, but it is not stated that way. What if the District doesn't like the compensation for future years? What if the District believes that the City has acted arbitrarily in withholding funds and wants out of future years (or needs the space for K-12)? What if the City impedes SEA negotiations to the point that the District believes that its best recourse is to terminate this arrangement and continue its classrooms (and labor relations) without City interference?

Frankly, what if the CITY just wants out in future years? I would want to make it clear that they could also terminate (without having to invent some trumped up "breach" by the district. THE TERMINATION LANGUAGE MUST BE RESTORED. IT SIMPLY MUST! I am not wedded to a '60 day' termination right -- but there should at least be one that gets the District out on 90 or 120 days -- this actually needs to be thought out operationally -- when will the District and the City likely know, each spring, whether they want to go forward for an additional year? How much notice is reasonable in that event.


Anonymous said…
4. What are the consequences for breach (by either party) -- in addition to termination (not there now -- see above). Could the City sue for damages? Equitable relief (such as specific performance)? There needs to be limits on the damages that the City can collect if it decides to terminate for "breach" -- as in none. They are getting free rent, and have built in a "penalty" clause in the way the compensation works. Beyond that, if they don't like the deal, the contract should provide only that they can take their marbles and find a provider they like better for future years. For a "no rent" deal where the District is accommodating them, at district expense, it should be clear that the City's sole remedy (other than the hold back) is to just walk away. The District, on the other hand, ought to be able to sue for its direct damages (including costs and expenses) in accommodating the City in this deal if the City doesn't perform. (Would I settle for just "walking away?" -- Probably.

(Obviously, there need to be other provisions for indemnification for third party claims (the egregious kinds of things like, say, negligence or willful misconduct on the part of City personnel. For example, if a city employee molests a child, and the parents sue the District, the city should be indemnifying for that damage. Similarly here needs to be insurance for this kind of thing -- why were the insurance provisions struck anyway?) Why are there no indemnity provisions for damages to third parties caused by violations of law, personal injury, etc.

5. There needs to be a provisions that require both sides to agree to any amendment. (How do we know that the missing exhibits don't say that the City can "amend' those provisions at any time by just providing the District with an updated copy.

6.I am not enough of a privacy expert to know exactly how the privacy provisions should work, but they clearly are inadequately vague as stated. And the City should be required to maintain confidentiality of documents. There needs to be a real confidentiality clause, that takes into account both FERPA and, if applicable, HIPAA.

7. There need to be anti assignment provisions, so the City cannot assign its obligations to some third party without the District's consent.

8. Who owns the data generated? Presumably the District. When the deal ends, the City should have to give back anything in its possession.

I could go on -- but the District needs to get its attorneys to actually negotiate a reasonable business deal. Signing this in its current form in any corporation would be a fireable offense.

Anonymous said…
The city thinks SPS is a child in the middle and upper management arena and treats it as such.
It is an open secret among those in City Hall.
The district rarely does anything to quell its reputation.
In this case the city gets the adult benefits of the contract and SPS is quite publicly and contractually being told to shut up and sit at the child's table until dinner is served / preschool is rolled out.

"Done deal"
Anonymous said…
Further, if the preschool program is a success, the city will applaud itself. If it is a failure, it will blame SPS. The city wins either way. SPS, unable to pull itself together as usual, will lose either way. It deserves to eat jello at the kids table while the city congratulates itself over a big piece of pie. A bigger piece of the pie will come when this little chess move becomes more city control of K-12.

"Done deal"
Anonymous said…
Speaking of the done deal, what are the oh so sad SBAC results. Weren't they supposed to be released today.

Anonymous said…
@ Reader: Looked for the big press release from Nyland's office saying how pleased he is. You know it's coming. With access to the scores a few weeks ago, the happy news was probably written and in the usual inept SPS manner no one pushed the button to post it to the web site.

Either that or the district wants to see how Dorn's announcement plays in Seattle by watching which way the wind is blowing in the reader comments of today's Seattle Times story about the scores. If readers seemed outraged, SPS can pump up the happy patter. If readers seem pleased, they can make the press release short and simple and hope the scores, like the opt out numbers and lack of achievement from the usual low income, most minorities, special education segments don't get much more analysis and that the story blows over. The ole duck n cover. Or is it stop, drop and roll?

"Done deal"
I strongly support the idea of giving all children in Seattle access - free access - to preschool. But that doesn't mean we should blindly fall in line behind a deeply flawed implementation of that idea, which is what appears to be in front of us. The board should reject this version of the agreement and send staff back to get it right.
OMG said…
The BAR indicates that the Service Agreement is IN DEVELOPMENT!!!

"Revenue in the amount of $647,9919 will be received from the City of Seattle Department of
Education and Early Learning to deliver high quality PreK in collaboration and alignment with
the City of Seattle’s Seattle Preschool Program. (No match is required or promised). The revenue
source for this motion is the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning. The
budget proposal, budget narrative, and Service Agreement are currently in development between
the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools. Drafts of these documents are attached. Final
documents will be completed for School Board Introduction."

The BAR authorizes the SUPERINTENDENT to enter into a Service Agreement with the City:

"and authorize the Superintendent to enter into a Service Agreement with the City of
Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning, in the form of the draft agreement attached
to the Board Action Report,"

The goal post keeps changing.
OMG said…
The district told the board that they would first sign the Partnership Agreement, and then the Service Contract.

The board can't vote for this contract.

The document doesn't specify number of years, whether or not SEA will contract with private prek providers etc.

Anonymous said…
The power vacuum has been filled but the jargon irritates me. What's so courageous about not charging rent and bypassing the board? It makes sense if city control is seen at this level as inevitable, more like a la cart, the city will take what it wants and let what they don't want fail. You can rely on SPS for failure by design or just because, take your pick.

OMG said…

I am struck that much of the Prek work is limited to the Executive Committee. This is an extremely important topic and much of the board is in the dark. Here is information on umbrella policies:

"The Executive Committee asked staff to develop an umbrella policy that identifies all current
Board policies that could be impacted by the Partnership and proposed Service Agreements.
Staff are currently working on this review. The timeline for the development of this policy is for
District staff to bring this work forward to the August 10th Curriculum and Instruction committee
meeting and also to the August 12 Executive Committee meeting."

This process has been a failure of the Executive Committee. There should be meetings of the whole board in the form of a work session.
Lynn said…
Speaking of the executive committee, they were supposed to meet on Wednesday the 12th but rescheduled for Thursday the 13th at the same time as the audit and finance committee meeting. Almost as though they didn't want Director Peters to be able to join them.
OMG said…

The city does not provide one single penny for Human Resources, SPS facility/budget administrative costs- let alone Charles Wright, payroll etc.

BAR no longer lists documents as drafts, but draft still on documents.
OMG said…
The city wants to pay the district $2900 for front office staff- with benefits Do they not know that PTAs help or fund office staff?
Leslie said…

I love the way your mind works. thank you for the best piece I've seen so far that explains the issues and problems.

Leslie Harris
Candidate for Pos. 6

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