Kids Not Cuts Updates

The Board has now smushed today's Executive Committee of the Whole together with the Work Session.  Agenda here.

Kids Not Cuts is planning to listen in, hoping the Board may talk about the current staffing issues.  The meeting starts at 4:30 pm so be there by 4:15 pm if you want to sit with the group. 

To the meeting topics:

- Preschool - there is some delusion out there that City's pre-K program is both going to expand in SPS as well as trump before-after school program space.  Given the two classrooms that are City-enrolled and way under capacity, I find it hard to understand how the district could choose to take on more.

- Alliance for Education.  This should be interesting, given how bad the relationship has been for the past year.

I observe that the Alliance's own "Beliefs" page says nothing about being a partner with SPS.  Their last blog entry is from June 2015. Haven't heard about the "Our Schools Coalition" in probably a year or more.  Here's the first entry - with their own URL - that comes up if you Google them:

A corporate based front dedicated to fostering higher academic achievement by all children in the Seattle Public Schools. Offers information about programs, ...

- Work Session is about Board Governance Priorities, Superintendent SMART goals, and the "Superintendent Evaluation Instrument."  I tell you that the Board and senior management love to talk these items into the ground because if you go back and review various Board meetings, you'll see these topics, over and over.  I don't get it.

I hope the Board, while reviewing the Superintendent's performance, does NOT give the slightest thought to giving him a bonus or raise.  

To note, at some point during the Work Session, the Board will go into Executive Session to "evaluate the performance of a public employee" (presumably the Super).

And, in "One of the Good Guys" category, the ever-polite Ken Gotsch sent a prompt reply to my queries about the staffing issues.  I will make no comments, but readers, do chime in with yours.
Gotsch: In response to your request for information,

Me: In Jan of 2014 you said this:

Gotsch: The WSS committee which includes both Central Office and school staff, examined the WSS formula, which makes up 53% of school funding. We looked at deciding on the best revisions to WSS if we have to make school-based reductions ranging between $3 million, $6 million and $9 million this year.

Gotsch: NOTE: In early 2014, the Business & Finance Office worked in collaboration with SEA reps to recognize and use annual district unspent funds to close the projected budget gap and not make the dramatic reductions to WSS budget allocation.

Also note that budget staff reported in the March 29, 2015 Board Budget Work Session, District contributions to the school WSS formula has grown:

Fiscal YR…..Amount…Per Student Headcount
2011-12…..$290.8 M…..$5,996
2012-13…..$305.9 M…..$6,135
2013-14…..$329.8 M…..$6,465
2014-15…..$356.0 M…..$6,848
2015-16…..$378.3 M…..$7,111  (As of March 19, 2015) $s up 6.3%, Per HC up 3.8%)

2015-16…..$380.2 M…..>$7,111 (As of today.)

Me: What is the current WSS formula being used?  I tried to search for it at the SPS website but cannot find it. 

The WSS formula is in the “Gold Book” or FY15-16 Budget Development Instructions on the web. Users can navigate to the Budget department web page, or follow the link below.

The WSS model starts on page 11.

Me: 2) I note that Superintendent Nyland said at the Board meeting that hiring and trips are to be curtailed at headquarters.  Could you be more specific about what that looks like -  are trips being cancelled or just not scheduled, does that apply to STR, the Board, the Superintendent and senior staff?  What kind of money will that save?

Gotsch: Asst Supt for HR, Brent Jones and I are in the process of preparing personnel and non-personnel cost curtailing recommendations for Supt Nyland.  We will be first targeting reducing the district’s share of the $4.3 million lost revenue due to drop in school enrollment and then looking for ways to close the current year (FY 2015-16) $3.3 million budget gap due to the new teacher’s contract.

Me: 3) And clearly, hiring will continue (I see there are still jobs today at the SPS website) so what does "curtailing" hiring look like?

Gotsch: As mentioned above, we’re in the process of determining recommendations for Supt Nyland.

Me: 4) What the less-than-anticipated enrollment will actually cost (not just the lost revenue; but the net after not providing for those students)?

Gotsch: This is an excellent question.  Budget staff have not calculated this yet.

Me: 5) What are the implementation costs to the cuts - having fewer teachers for lunch/playground supervision, loss of instructional time, kid anxiety over classroom switches, decreasing resources for high-need kids.  How is that all being calculated? 

Gotsch: I think it’s important to note that these are not cuts, but staff transfers /moves between schools. There are no budgetary costs to teacher re-assignments.

Me: 6) Parents understand that because of the under enrollment of about 589 students, the district is not getting money it anticipated.  What they don't understand is how the cuts can be made (to save money) and yet the teachers/staff are retained and placed elsewhere (which is continued spending). 

Gotsch: We have less enrollment, less revenue, so less staff to assign.  Transferring teachers saves the District money:
-          From under enrolled to schools with enrollment above projections:  District does not have to hire the additional new teachers
-          From under enrolled schools to permanent substitute teachers:  District does not have to hire/pay additional substitute teachers.


PreK said…
I am glad that Kids Not Cuts will be at the meeting.

Look through district documents and you will find the district proposes using Title 1 funds to cover the 25% prek hold-back expenses. Title 1 funds are intended for K-12 students and the district is in the midst of placing 28-30 students in K classes. Isn't it bad enough that the district has invested untold amounts of administrative hours for prek and haven't gotten reimbursed?
Anonymous said…
About the Board and giving Nyland a raise. Look there will be four directors leaving soon. Some US Presidents grant pardons as they leave office. ... just sayin'

Bewilder Mind
dan dempsey said…
Superintendent evaluation instrument???
How about we think about evaluating "academics" in the SPS under the following lens:

From the new "Science of Learning" explainer published by Deans for Impact:
6 questions all teachers and administrators should be able to answer
--- "able to answer" meaning: know the answers cognitive science provides.

[[The number of public-school administrators in this country who can answer these questions is tiny. It's tiny because cognitive science isn't taught in education departments. ]]

#1 .. How do students understand new ideas?

#2 .. How do students learn and retain new information?

#3 .. How do students solve problems?

#4 .. How does learning transfer to new situations outside of the classroom?

#5 .. What motivates students to learn?

#6 .. What are common misconceptions about how students think and learn?

What it boils down to:
Knowledge has to be stored inside long-term memory, and it's the school's job to make that happen.

"Scope and Sequence modifications" focused on SBAC test prep hardly seem part of the school's job.

So what up with those kinds of modifications Supt. Nyland?
Please explain.

How is the district guiding teachers in enhancing their ability to place knowledge into each student's long term memory?

OR is the entire focus on improving each teacher's SBAC test prep delivery?
Reader47 said…
Wow - the stuff on how Board communicates with Supt/Staff is rather obnoxious. It reads as if the Board works for the Supe, not the other way around. So scoldy and very "we'll answer your question if we think we have time but only if you've asked in the right way at the right time." Ah dysfunction, thy name is SPS
Jan said…
Spot on, Dan. I have to go off and read this stuff. In my opinion, this is EXACTLY the stuff that educators should be asking and focusing on. And it would appear to me that (at least at the management level), they spend approximately 0 percent of their time on it.
Jan said…
I don't know, Reader 47: I wasn't that bothered by it. There IS something to be said for not blindsiding staff at meetings with floor amendments, stuff they can't really speak to because they have not had an opportunity to think about it, etc.

What bothered me more were the following two things:
1. The "protocols" for getting new ideas, etc. into the pipeline are truly sclerotic. They take forever, and involve a zillion steps. This is not the hallmark of nimble, confident management. It is like something from a soviet five year plan -- designed to provide many places where passive agressive resistance can quietly kill something.

Nor do I see where in this entire process you deal with things like the newly "popped up" effort to effectively "kill" MIF, only a year after its adoption, by reordering its scope and sequence and then demanding that everyone use the new, unvetted, unapproved by the board, scope, sequence and materials (oh -- and don't forget the pathetically short time teachers were given to "appeal" the new use requirement).

Reading through all this stuff, it is hard for me to see how a concerned board member could get this issue in front of the board in time to "save" this year's math instruction. Nor do I recall that it was ever presented to the board (or the public) before its mangled and botched roll out this fall.

Just because "chaos" is bad doesn't mean that ALL process is good. I get that there can be a concern, with elected boards, that you get a rogue board member whose governance style impedes district work. But what we have here, instead, is a "process" document that protects staff time and workload at the expense of district governance. There is a lot here that needs to be rethought and rewritten, with effective governance prioritized. There is no possible way, under this document, for the District to be reasonably responsive to parent concerns or issues that come up immediately (usually because the staff has gone off on some new tangent -- like the rewriting/destruction of the MIF scope and sequence).

Second -- there is nothing in this document that deals with situations where the board needs to act without the knowledge of the Supe or some of the staff (in matters of superintendent or staff malfeasance or misconduct). I realize it is not a pleasant subject, but the board needs a document that works for the board. Period. That means while running things through the Supe's office or copying various people makes sense for most issues, it does not make sense for all issues.
Prek said…
In addition to SPS sponsored prek many classrooms will be provided to private prek providers within SPS?

Reader47 said…
I don't disagree with you Jan that there doesn't seem to be a recognition of ways to deal with "hot button" issues - malfeasance, the "pop-up"situations you cite. And sure, you need a way to deal with the occasional "rogue" Board member who could throw things in a tizzy by constantly demanding things in a rushed way.

Maybe I've just become too jaded, but it feels like this is aimed at a specific situation/person in a very over-arching but subtle way. Probably a truly bad analogy, but when I read it I hear Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes doing the voice-over - "you VIL do as you are TOLD" ;)
Anonymous said…
The balance of power is ridiculous. Staff seem to always come to the board with urgent must pass now pet projects.. Yet the board has to have their oversight vetted prior to asking questions? How does that even work? Excuse me, in three months may I review your work on X objective? Bull manure! Staff need to come ready to answer questions, and find answers.
The board, aside from Peters and Patu, seem to believe they represent the district staff and not the people of Seattle. Thankfully we're going to clean house starting next month, and elect some board members who understand that they and the bureaucrats are there to serve the public, not the other way around.
Anonymous said…
Oh yeah ... The "protocols" for getting new ideas, etc. into the pipeline are truly sclerotic. How do we remove defective ideas?

So on the topic of academic leadership ... can the Superintendent or someone comment of the fact that the Strategic Plan is packed with ideas based on Gates Foundation baloney. So what can be done about that?

I refer all to Jay Greene's blog.

Emperor Gates has no clothes : who will tell the Emperor he has no clothes?

Last week Bill Gates gave a speech to articulate his foundation’s strategy for education reform and the basis for that strategy. Unfortunately, throughout the speech Gates misreads and distorts findings from research, including research that the foundation has funded or conducted itself. Why hasn’t anyone called Gates on these errors?

Perhaps one reason for failure to call out the research errors is that so much of current leadership focus has been based on the erroneous ideas pushed by the Gates Foundation. ... We can begin with the NOT internationally competitive Common Core State Standards - a pillar of the SPS strategic plan used to justify SBAC test prep, which masquerades as education.

So what is the "protocol" to revise SPS's poorly aimed efforts to improve academic program delivery. Those poorly aimed efforts are largely based on Gates Foundation nonsense.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
West and Cruickshank have pretty much identified a major problem.
The Superintendent and Staff are never held accountable by the Directors.

The ongoing dialogue of at least the past 10 years has been...
Supe and Staff tell board what is going to happen and Board says OK.

If fraudulent School Board Action Reports are used ... no problem. Lies are a part of this game. Transparency usually non-existent.

There was a time when I thought the internet blogs could improve governance.

The Board members have had little use for the opinions expressed on this blog. I remember when Director Martin-Morris had a blog... but he bailed when the questions got hard (as in required transparent answers). Charlie Mas will definitely remember.

Is this the dawning of a new age? Will Seattle install 4 new directors that listen to constituents and Direct the district? Is the dog capable of wagging the employed tail? Time will tell.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
At 10:44 AM above I made reference to The Science of Learning and cognitive science.

What it boils down to:
Knowledge has to be stored inside long-term memory, and it's the school's job to make that happen.

For more ...

Link to:
The Science of Learning

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Robert Cruickshank is always good for a laugh. He has no idea what he's talking about but he sure sounds confident. Since only one incumbent is running for re-election, I wouldn't call the next board election a chance to "clean house."

Also, even if you get your pets Burke, Geary, and Harris on the board, what changes do you expect them to actually make? Charlie has chronicled the years of board indifference, ineffectiveness, incompetence, etc. on this very forum since this forum began. But, maybe this new board is going to be the game changer. This is our year!

The current board overrode a staff recommendation for elementary math textbook adoption for their own choice of Math in Focus. So, how's that MiF implementation going? How many stern emails do you think Sue Peters has written on that score?

Citizen Kane
Chris S. said…
What worries me is what happened to Peaslee and McLaren. How do we make sure the great new board members don't get their brains eaten by zombies?
Chris S. said…
What worries me is what happened to Peaslee and McLaren. How do we make sure the great new board members don't get their brains eaten by zombies?
Anonymous said…
Those of us who were not in Peaslee's original favored constituencies think Peaslee was always like this. Seriously, it's not a change to me. It is trite, but I really want people who are worried about ALL the kids. Anybody who can think it's ok to punish kids because they don't like their parents(or favor another group because they do like those parents) can turn around and be an apologist for a rapist because they "like" the staff member on the hotseat (Naturebridge case). And then favor staff over parents. I like a strong board member (Sue Peters!), but sometimes it can be hard to tell righteous anger apart from vindictive politics, so I am looking for even keeled candidates.

Transparency Please said…
On October 12th, Michael Tolley sent Larry Nyland an e-mail. Tolley tells Nyland that SPS opened 3 prek classrooms. The classrooms were at Bailey Gatzert, Van Asselt and Old Van Asselt. Tolley tells Nyland that there are 20 students enrolled in each of these classrooms. When, in fact, there is a total of 11 students enrolled in both Van Asselt prek classrooms.

Wouldn't it be illegal for Tolley to provide inaccurate information to the Superintendent? Wouldn't it be illegal for the district to have misleading documents to the tax-payers as well.
Anonymous said…


Want to send a message to Dr. Nyland that you will NOT tolerate this cloaked, inconsistent and chaotic teacher cut process? Want to get his attention about something THEY want?

OPT YOUR CHILD OUT OF STANDARDIZED TESTING NOW. Amplify is starting now. Do what is best for your family, but, I will be opting our kids OUT.

If everyone could do this, Tolley and co. will definitely sit up and pay attention.


Anonymous said…

To get the message across, and get Dr. Nyland to consider actually listening and acting, do hit the Stranger with lots of info. Saturate them. Be vigilant. They reach the kidless in the city, and, their protest vote is needed to effect a change.

Stranger Rocks
Jan said…
Reader 47: I agree that if you read this entire thing as an effort to sit on Sue Peter's (and to a lesser extent Betty Patu's) head(s), it reads pretty grim. I was trying to not go that route, though that may be error on my part.

Another thing -- it seems to me that staff violates this all the time (bringing stuff up at the last minute, failing to have facts at meetings, etc.). Lots of critics out there (the Seattle Times, the Alliance, LEV, etc.) very willing to criticize the board for any procedural faux pas in "micromanagement," but when have they ever noted the failures of the staff to stick to board priorities, follow up on questions, provide information/data in a timely manner?

If the staff brings bad or missing analysis to the board meeting -- and you can't say anything that might be deemed critical or disparaging, -- what is left for board members to do? Hold their breath until they turn blue?

mirmac1 said…
I agree Jan. In any other field, ill-prepared staff that misleads managers would rightfully be drummed out. Not given A RAISE! Reminds me of Seinfeld's Bizarro World. The joke's on us.
Lynn said…

I agree with you - but who is ultimately responsible for the staff's performance? The board is responsible. They hire the superintendent to manage the staff. He is clearly failing. When will they address this with him?
n said…
Citizen Kane, I've been thinking the same thing. We've expected change with every turnover and we ended up with Peaslee and McLaren? Excuse me I have no such expectations this time. Only hope.

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