Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Open Thread

 Petition to save EEU inclusive kindergarten program.

The mandate has come down from the Supreme Court to King County Superior Court on the SC's ruling on the charter school law.

The opinion and the order changing opinion became final on December 9, 2015.  This cause is mandated to the superior court from which the appellate review was taken for further proceedings in accordance with the attached true copy of the opinion.

I assume the KC Court will be issuing its own final mandate on the issue soon.

There is to be a board meeting this afternoon at 5 pm at First Place Scholars about the future of their principal as well as whether they may or may not change their status as a charter school.  It seems they are not going the ALE route (but not clear if they didn't understand how to or if they are choosing not to.)  There is also disturbing news that some entity (again unclear who) is offering charter schools "grant" money to stay open for December/January but it comes with stipulations.  I am seeking clarity on this issue because, if true, (and it's not OSPI or the Charter Commission), then some outside group is seeking to influence the direction of charter schools in Washington State via money.

Apparently some parents and staff are planning to picket the school all day today in protest over the lack of transparency from the First Place Scholars board.

The UW Public Lectures series for winter is called "Equity and Difference: Keeping the Conversation Going."  It looks to be a strong series.  I'm attending this lecture in Feb. - Doing race better: Race and the reform of urban schools.

Kids and manners - an interesting article from the NY Times.

A national parent group for children who have dyslexia - Decoding Dyslexia - is getting national attention including an article at Education Week. 

Good article from Forbes(!) magazine about the need for vocational education in schools.

Yet despite the growing evidence that four-year college programs serve fewer and fewer of our students, states continue to cut vocational programs. 

The justification, of course, is budgetary; these programs (which include auto body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production, real estate and photography) are expensive to operate. But in a situation where 70% of high school students do not go to college, nearly half of those who do go fail to graduate, and over half of the graduates are unemployed or underemployed, is vocational education really expendable? Or is it the smartest investment we could make in our children, our businesses, and our country’s economic future?

Put this meeting on your calendar (and kudos to SPS staff) - Understanding the School Budget at JSCEE on January 25, 2016 from 6-8 pm. 

What's on your mind?


Eric B said...

Vocational programs are incredibly important. They are the foundation for a living wage job for those who don't want to go to a 4-year university. They may need to be supplemented with post-secondary training, but getting a start in high school is very helpful.

Taking a Leap With African American Students said...

I am the board President of First Place. No Board meeting has been called for today. Only a Committee meeting is scheduled. Melissa you know me well. You know you could have called to check your information.

No I 1240 said...

" There is also disturbing news that some entity (again unclear who) is offering charter schools "grant" money to stay open for December/January but it comes with stipulations. "

Thank you for keeping up on these issues.

It will be interesting to hear from the parents of First Place. Parents within charter schools have been sold a bill of goods and they aren't being told the truth. IMO, parents in all charter schools should be picketing.

Anonymous said...

The FPS website shows a BOD meeting for 12/10/15. Was that held?


Taking a Leap With African American Students said...

Here is the transparency.

As of today First Place Scholars is no longer a charter school.
First Place has filed an application to return to a Private School
We are moving forward to educate the same population we have educated for 25 years.
The School Leader has been asked by parents to send them bi monthly newsletters the board supports this
First Place will never close its doors to parents who want an excellent education for a child who is homeless, at risk of beign homeless, or from a population of children underserved by traditional public school offerings.
Funds from a philanthropic sources are the same funding community that has along with individual and foundation funders created and sustained First Place for 25 years.
First Place has opened the Doreen Cato Early Learning Center to bring seamless education and services to families
First Place is not and has never been for sale.
First Place never changed our high expectation and measured outcomes model over the past two decades
First Place is raising funds to match the donations received any reading this a donation can be made to First Place, P.O. Box 22536, Seattle WA 98122 and make a notation Mellisa. Melissa likes and has always supported First Place she just needs to give me a call to get all the information. On behalf of the board we hope this public transparency is helpful and we will ask the School Leader to get this to all parents,

Anonymous said...

I find the circumstances around the hiring of Kelli Schmidt suspicious.

Prior to working for Seattle Public Schools, Schmidt was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (ED-OCR) in their Seattle Region Enforcement office, which serves six states and the Pacific Territories.

As a senior attorney adviser with that Federal agency, she was responsible for enforcing Federal civil rights laws, leading investigation and compliance review teams, and providing technical assistance and presentations to help K-12 school districts, colleges, and universities understand their legal obligations and achieve civil rights compliance.

In July 2015 SPS and USDE office of civil rights (OCR) entered into a settlement agreement over several civil rights compliance issues. It's unclear what Ms. Schmidt's role was in these and other OCR cases involving SPS.

In August 2015 Dr. Nyland released the following paragraph in his re-org memo,

"Creating a Student Civil Rights Compliance Office that will report to the Deputy Superintendent. This will allow us to better comply with the OCR, Title IX, Title II, and HIB requirements that we are currently working on. This entails the hiring of two positions (Student Civil Rights Compliance Officer and Accessibility Coordinator); reassigning the Title IX position and one investigator position from HR and Student HIB from Operations. This change is driven by the field trip settlement of $700,000, the recommendations of the Title IX task force, OCR/ADA settlement agreements and increases in student HIB complaints."

In October 2015 SPS hires Kelli Schmidt as Interim Title IX Coordinator,
Student Civil Rights Compliance Officer.

During Ms. Schmidt's transition from OCR to SPS, her office at the USDE had several pending SPS civil rights cases and was actively investigating SPS. It's unclear what Ms. Schmidt's role was in these cases. (These cases are still pending resolutions.)

It's easy to see how SPS can use Ms. Schmidt's insider information to circumvent compliance or simply use her OCR investigation expertise to create the thinnest vernier of compliance. SPS can possibly use Ms. Schmidt's investigation interview expertise to coach SPS employees ahead of OCR interviews.

I think there are several possible conflicts with this hire and it's unclear if this new department is simply an extension of the existing SPS legal dept. It's also unclear if the new dept. will continue the legal's departments anti-student, anti-family legacy. On the bright-side, Ms. Schmidt could be a civil rights hammer, working for our students.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous Eric B said...

Vocational programs are incredibly important. They are the foundation for a living wage job for those who don't want to go to a 4-year university. They may need to be supplemented with post-secondary training, but getting a start in high school is very helpful. "

Do you have any examples?

SPS Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, I don't know Ms. Mason well. I will attempt to contact her.

SPS parent, I recommend reading the article I linked to.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dawn, could you please e-mail me your phone number? sss.westbrook@gmail.com

Eric B said...

SPS Parent, I haven't read the Forbes article, but I'll give a couple of local examples. The Ingraham HS auto shop is working towards getting certified as a training facility by ASE. Students who take 4 years of auto shop will be able to graduate with an ASE certification, with pay in the $20-$30/hour range, possibly more depending on the industry.

Seattle Central College has a maritime academy with year-long courses that essentially give entry into marine deck and engineering jobs. While this isn't high school, Ballard High has some classes that fit into this. Graduates from the maritime academy have near 100% job placement rates and wages upwards of $60K out of school.

Anonymous said...

Spy games - Do you know where your student's data is?


US privacy campaigner the Electronic Frontier Foundation has accused Google of spying on students and logged a complaint with US regulator the Federal Trade Commission.

The EFF says that Google tracks and mines records of every site, search, result and video that students watch without obtaining permission from students or their parents.

EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo said: “Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company’s own purposes. Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit centre.”


Melissa Westbrook said...

McClure Watcher, I thank you for this. I really want to get back to this issue soon.

Carol Simmons said...

So many agree and applaud Dawn Mason and her work at First Place. Dawn has been a tireless worker for underserved students and is highly respected, revered and loved by many.

Why is it that so many wonderful people who believe in the same goals disagree on the manner in which to achieve them?

Just think, if we all supported public education what a difference we could make.


Anonymous said...

"Just think, if we all supported public education what a difference we could make."

Carol with all due respect, every property owner supports public education, regardless.

It appears by your statement that you're taking an unintended swipe at Dawn and First Place, is it unintended?

The heroics of First Place is unquestioned and in it's case, any means justifies the end!

As I've commented here before, unless I see monetary support for First Place in the upcoming SPS levy, then I will vote no.


School watcher said...

Based on the actions at the school tonight and the community's request for her to step down shows not all agree with Ms. Mason's decisions. From the outside, the statements made tonight regarding Dr. Whitehead removal comes across as retaliatory at best as well as the sudden adding of board members to ensure there is enough votes. It's so sad to see a board who doesn't want to listen and consider the thoughts of these at-risk and homeless families. If nothing else, the community should be given the opportunity to elect their board members. Based on the exchanges I have heard, these families are being held hostage by the few. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend this KPLU special on the IB program at Rainier Beach:


David Edelman

Melissa Westbrook said...

PC, it's sad that you do not see that SPS does not have anything to do with the running of First Place. There may be former SPS students in the school but, as far as I know, SPS has nothing to do with how First Place runs.

And, in fact, it seems that First Place turned down the $800,000 in grant money offered by WSCSA to stay a charter (funding the school) because it appears they may be changing to an Early Learning Center (which is generally pre-K -2.)

"First Place has opened the Doreen Cato Early Learning Center to bring seamless education and services to families" Dawn Mason's earlier statement

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, SPS and First Place we're partnered for a decade or so in the 90s, when it first started. But that relationship was severed by federal legislation in 2001 that said that homeless children had to be mainstreamed, couldn't be served separately (not commenting on the merits of that; just stating what happened.)
From the First Place website "history" page:

"The First Place organization (now known as First Place Family of Services) was founded in 1989 by a small group of educators and social workers who saw that homeless children were not in school and decided to do something about it. First Place began operating on April 10, 1989 as a transitional school for homeless children and, by the end of the first week of school, 20 children were enrolled.

The First Place organization incorporated as a 501(c)(3) and became one of four Washington State sites through which homeless children attended school (First Place, 2007). From the beginning, First Place set out to provide the services designed to enable a student and family to address the complex set of educational, physical, emotional, and environmental issues surrounding their current circumstances. As a result, First Place gave children the special attention and services they were unable to receive in a traditional public school.

For the first decade, First Place elementary school was a partner of the public school system, and received public education and title I dollars as well as private donations. However, when Congress passed the 2001 reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Act, prohibiting segregation of homeless students, First Place elementary school lost its access to public money. However, McKinney-Vento did not reduce the need for First Place’s services. Families and their children continued to come back, both homeless and permanently housed, with needs that the public schools could not meet. The First Place organization evolved organically to meet families’ growing and changing needs regardless of the family’s housing situation.

Over the years, the school developed a wrap-around model of education and social services to stop the revolving door of traumatic living situations; case managers helped parents or guardians enter stable housing, find jobs, complete their own education, and advocate for their children’s education. The mental health department partnered with local universities and mental health agencies to provide individual counseling, testing, and group therapy to students. The volunteer department matched each child with a mentor from the community based on an assessment of the child’s personality and needs. The teachers developed specialized knowledge in the needs of traumatized children and deliver culturally-responsive curriculum to support children with disabilities and English language learners along with a diverse array of youth struggling with various individual traumas."

Anonymous said...

Reposting this from InclusionDOESMatter on the EEU thread, as that thread is now pretty far down:

"New information/My current understanding-

Access: The SPS open enrollment process is used by the district to assign 20 kindergarten students receiving special education services to the EEU. The same process is used for open enrollment for the district option schools. General education students are admitted by the EEU. The EEU uses the same priorities for admission as the Seattle Public Schools.

Funding: The rate was determined 4 years ago.
The EEU has a contract with Seattle Public Schools to serve 20 kindergarten students receiving special education services. These rates were determined with SPS based on the cost of transitional kindergartens (which no longer exist and were the least expensive program) and resource room/SM1. Seattle is not paying basic education dollars. EEU requested BEA from Seattle and was denied. During negotiations the rate was lowered further

General Education Students: Seattle Public Schools has never paid for general education students at the Experimental Education Unit (EEU). SPS only pays for students receiving special education services. The funding the EEU receives from SPS does not cover the cost of the kindergarten program. The remaining costs are covered by Haring Center fundraising.


--Former EEUParent

Anonymous said...

There is a slight SPS connection, Ms. Kim Sopher Dunn, current director of the preschool program is the sister to SPS' Keesha Scarlett. Since it is rumored that Ms. Dunn will most likely be Dr. Whitehead's successor. makes makes one wonder, since Ms. Dunn does not have a school administrator experience, will First Place be a Early Learning Center before he school year ends?

If First Place becomes a Early Learning center, perhaps funded by Thrive by Five and The City of Seattle Preschool program, with some services provided by SPS, what happens to the money that First Place owes?

My understanding is the reason why First Place became a Charter was to gain money for the school. Is this sudden change in focus to becoming an Early Learning Center another switcharoo by the board?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Wondering, yes, "early learning" is where are the cool ed-reformers are turning their focus now. (Look for Arne Duncan to jump in at some point.) And, Ms. Mason said that early learning was now going to be a part of First Place so yes, I'll bet there will be state and city dollars there. As for any dollars that First Place owes, especially back to the state, I don't think most grant money allows for that kind of use.

There is to be FPS Board meeting on Monday. I'd like to attend but I have to ascertain if they are still a public school or not.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I also want to note - as far as I can find out - not a single media outlet has followed up on Ms. Mason's statement that FPS is no longer a charter school. That would seem big news - the first charter school opened in Washington State closes - but I'm not a journalist so maybe not.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

About the EEU: Wyeth Jessee wrote that part of the reason for defunding the EEU kindergarten is that the program is not replicable in a traditional kindergarten classroom.

I have seen emails in response referring to the blended kindergartens SPS used to have. I searched but couldn't find much about them. All I could find with specifics were posts from this blog, such as: "It consists of 10 students without IEP's, and 7 students WITH IEP's, served in a kindergarten classroom. There are 2 teachers, one with special education certification." That sounds pretty good to me.

My questions: When did these blended Ks end (assuming that they are none left)? How close to the EEU model were they, and were they at all informed by research and practice at the EEU? How were they different from ACCESS?

Former EEUParent

So Frustrated said...

I just can't help but to think that voters supported the city's prek program with $53m. The city is paying high administrative salaries and is part of a research project. The city is paying $20k per student, will only serve 2000 students with $53M, and SPS houses 2 of the city's prek classrooms with a total of 13 students. These 13 students have a total of 2 teachers and 2 aids.

In my mind, there are dollars to support proven programs, but dollars aren't going to these individuals.

So very frustrating.

Lori said...

There was a Blended K program at Bryant for many years. I had a student in it the very last year before it ended, which was the 2008-2009 school year. It could have up to 17 children, and IIRC, it was 7 with IEPs and 10 typically developing. There was a special ed teacher and full time paraprofessional in the room. My typically developing child had a great year in that class and the teacher was outstanding. I never knew or tried to guess which students had IEPs nor did I really ask around as I never felt like it was my business. It was just my kid's class.

I don't know the official reason why it ended, but I had heard talk among parents on the playground indicating that some were happy it was ending because all the other classes were overcapacity. The other K's that year had 28-30 kids each, and every nook and cranny was being converted to classroom space to accomodate growth and conversion to the new assignment plan (ie, no longer able to cap enrollment). So having a K with only 17 kids in it was not popular among some families, and it was no longer viable given the capacity situation in the north.

I have always felt sad about it ending because I thought it was wonderful model. That said, I do not know how the families of children with IEPs felt. I'd be curious if they feel the same and had good experiences there and in other blended classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Well, sending the kids to a self contained program, also takes up space, including in the north end. 3 programs at Thornton Creek serving 24 kids in 3 rooms, same thing at View Ridge. Olympic view, Olympic hills, same thing. These a.re expensive and space intensive. Those classes always put pressure on the entire region including Bryant. Probably half those iep kids would have been placed in a self contained room taking up tons of space. The reason they cancelled those programs? New management.... again. The programs were popular and successful. Who know? If we get another sped director or 10.... They could well come back.

The point remains, EEU models inclusion, differentiation, tolerance, and has been great for all who attend.

SPS get a clue!

Sped Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll just note one sad thing (to me.) Over at the Washington's Paramount Duty Facebook page, there was a thread on this issue (even though it is not directly related to school funding.) Unbelievably, Robin Lake over at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, tries to circle this back to charters.

"EEU is a special place and a worthy investment from SPS. Don't mean to cause a stir, but I'm not clear why people would support district funds going to EEU and not a public charter school. Asking with fully good intent and to try to understand where people see the distinction."

I'm not even going to try to answer why the two should not be conflated but I just have to wonder if every funding issue will come back to charters.

Anonymous said...

I'm not even anti-charter in theory, but the EEU thread on that site is a weird place for Robin Lake to try to make her point. For one thing, charters generally have a terrible track record when it comes to educating children with disabilities (no doubt there are exceptions), while the EEU was a pioneer in that area.

Former EEUParent