Sunday, December 27, 2015

Work Session on Strategic Plan: Not As I Thought

This will be a bit rough as I am writing it on the fly.  I feel this is important to get out, though. because it has information on the thinking of every single Board member AND marks a significant change from previous Work Sessions.

Previously, I had heralded this Work Session as "vital"  and I continue to believe that but the meeting itself did not play out as I thought.

Clover Codd and Charles Wright lead the discussion.  Wright noted that it would be his last Work Session as the deputy superintendent (with his departure from the district coming.)

As I also noted in my notice of this Work Session, the staff presentation was 45 pages long and I thought there would not be much time for discussion.  Codd stated that staff would present the overview and then ask for "warm" and "cool" feedback.  (Warm is "going well or you like the direction" and cool is for not so good.

Wright went thru the presentation in a rapid fashion, noting that, over time, staff realized/knew that a huge list of items in the Strategic Plan was unwieldy and not workable.  He said they got the list down from 90 items to about 33 but it was "still too much."  He said there were too many projects in the pipeline and not enough time/resources to go in-depth.  He said the number of projects (under the umbrella of 33 issues) was too many and yet, "people keep asking and pushing."  (And such is the nature of any bureaucracy especially a governmental one.)

Wright also talked about "white space" for leadership (meaning, cracks between duties/projects that get overlooked or not done.)  I was also glad that he mentioned that there "is no time to think and analyze" which yes, is crucial for leadership. He said they can't "keep running from symptom to symptom and fire to fire."

I agree with this point and yet, what changed under his leadership?  Something may have internally but to outside eyes, I don't see a change in how leadership is working publicly.

The presentation was done in 10 minutes which was quite surprising.  Codd went on and said they had a Strategic Plan and projects and planning and a lot of thoughtful work.  But she also gently pointed out that the district can't do a 180 degree turn in the work.

Clearly, this was a nudge to new board members about what interests/concerns that they might want to see emphasized.  I can think of a handful of things that new board members might want to talk about but really, it's about doing things correctly/legally (see Sped and ELL), fulfilling what has been promised/bought (see Math in Focus), following board policy (see most everything else.)

I don't see the new board wanting to do a 180 degree turn.

Then Codd said staff wanted the board to ask any clarifying questions on SMART goals and the Strategic Plan.

Director Blanford asked what was announced to community around revisions or changes to SP when it was, when we shared it?  Staff didn't have the answer immediately available.  This was the only question (but likely for a good reason.)

Then Codd did something odd and asked the Board to reflect and take 5-7 minutes to write down issues/comments on district work with the "warm" and "cool" viewpoints.  The board, as a whole, seemed taken aback.  Director Peters gently pointed out that if the board had been told, in advance, that this was the work for this Work Session, they could have prepared.  Codd said yes, that would have been good.

(So I observe that staff didn't send the board anything beyond the agenda so the board did not come prepared with questions about the SMART goals or Strategic Plan nor their observations on how various district work items were going.)

Below is a truncated note-taking list of what each board director said.

Warm Feedback
Scott Pinkham- didn't get much warm feedback during campaign.
Wanted to share from NA and adding Indigenous People's day, Robert Eaglestaff School, Superintendents have connected with NA community.

Clover - around revisions (re: Blanford's query on Strategic Plan)
"As we implement plan will hold regular check-ins with staff and board and community."

Jill Geary
- rollout of socio-emotional curriculum, need to rollout everywhere
- resources and independence can help communities - named Sand Point Elem, took immersion language program and have ELL kids be mentors
- idea of white space, article in the Atlantic Monthly and US teachers have least amount of planning time and little reflection time and working with other teachers.

Rick Burke
- more broad and themes
- support for educators and public ed in Seattle as environmental factor
- focus on equity as tool and lens to lift whole district
- recognize that there are smart, passionate dedicated people working for children

Sue Peters
- great teaching happening in district
- social studies adoption process went well and was responsive
- good things about programs like aerospace at RBHS, Ballard film, drama at various, athletics and instrumental programs - and why not bring to more students?
- certain staff who go out into community
- principals who are well-regarding and beloved and knit together communities
- budget is slowly becoming more understandable

Stefan Blanford
- same as Scott, more complaints than compliments
- early learning work has been well-done and complaints about kids in seats and "excited about that"
- recovery from labor negotiations was well-handled
- and points about smart and committed and active staff

Leslie Harris
- Soup for Teachers and outreach there
- bell times
- Noel Treat's return
- John Cerqui's good work
- budget issues more transparent and roadshow

Betty Patu
- earlier hiring of teachers

Cool feedback 
(I note that all the directors express remorse at the number of items and that people often complain more than compliment.)

Leslie Harris
- testing
- strike
- capacity crisis and portable farms and lack of FACMA
- class sizes
- no middle school math adoption
- perception that district is against option or creative approach or alts
- creative approach got a CBA to get rid of them
- Middle College without explanation, pedagogy and curriculum
- something Sound and Youth Foundation that Middle College is there
- EEU kindergarten closure
- not nimble in reacting to controversial situations
- Garfield issues including rape case, transparency, MLK march
- murkiness of investigations and timelines
- how superintendent was hired and raise
- CSiPs are lacking
- lunch and reces were collective bargained
- not enough arts
- lack of transparency on Board and leadership travel

Sue Peters
echo a lot of Leslie
 not timely or reaching enough people, most of government has this issue
- capacity challenges
- lunch and recess
- disconnect between central office and on the ground reality to schools
- assessments, time and resources that central thinks is not the reality
- lack of access, time and quality that enrich  like libraries, arts, PE, great programs but sense but not living up to our promise and not fully supporting them and becoming lesser, bait and switch
- website - I know this has been worked on and still have a hard time and I do
- middle school math
- too much standardization and that we have diversity in population and used to have more options - a push for the same box (maybe CC or SBAC or economies of scale)
- lack of concern for parents concerns, lack of respect
- too many settlements in general
- problem with culture of fear and intimidation - out of rubric and this needs to be put back.

Stefan Blanford
- number of people about principal moves, not well explained
- language immersion and cohort in SE and where do they go after elementary school and his daughter is one of them
- recovery from labor negotiations - several principals that were not well supported after over
- bell times vote, many e-mails and were upset about many students will benefit but not all students.
- budgeting around staffin adjustments is not transparent
- elementary math adoption - teachers complain about implementation

Jill Geary
- staff adjustments (on heels of strike)
- not good in family interaction.  on scorecard falling downward
- more good news getting out there
- closing of achievement gaps and include disabilities to see that those kids are included
- saw Paper Tigers and trauma informed curriculum
- like Leslie don't close something without offering something else, explain clearly how we are serving those kids, Middle College from WS to N Seattle and alt is looking at a computer

Rick Burke
- fulfill curriculum materials adoption
- community engagement - deliberate in sequencing in story, walk a mile in others
- building student skills in all classrooms as learning progression.  Voc ed are great and I said when running, idea of wood shop, etc. we should have those opps and people really like it.
- fostering a culture of innovation and amplify and repeat successful programs
- assessments - wrote it down as assessment transparency, as a parent I should be able to see it
- capacity management, hard working, more pro-active

Scott Pinkham
- a lot already mentioned
- Middle College lack of transparency
- transparency with community in the now and things just dropped on them.  have to tell ENTIRE district
- Principal updates to communities
- website - app for phones - his own laptop isn't working
- district isn't being truthful - Loyal Heights feels magnet school is being built,
- delay tactics to get feedback - own experience,
- community had to check numbers and found them different from district
- staffing and teaching AP/IB and Gen Ed getting lesser teachers
- leaders on curriculum
- bell times not benefiting all students " a few students not all"
- strike
- ORCA cards
- decrease in native enrollment "that's the trend" where are they going?

Betty Patu
- enough transparency, not enough parent engagement, when we change things we get feedback after it's done
-Sped - no one returns calls
- programs in our schools and parents say we have variety of programs, why can't all kids access the programs after-school
- language immersion, need more teachers,using IAs to teach
- programs that are contracted for - City contracts, they changed them and if we sign something, we need time to read and vet it
- enrollment sends kids to where they want them to go, schools underenrolled, enrollment should be in the schools

Clover thanked them for the imput.  I thought it odd how Director Blanford said nothing about the program for African-American males students that he, former Director Martin-Morris and Mr. wright had championed.)


n said...

...article in the Atlantic Monthly and US teachers have least amount of planning time and little reflection time.

Wow! Would you want to got doctors who never have time to read medical journals or keep up with medical breakthroughs. Discuss medicine with colleagues? or lawyers who don't have time to read law books and keep up with current law? That should have been the biggest priority for our union. And yet, I heard almost nil about it. That's why I have such a poor opinion of SEA. Good teaching has to be supported by time to reflect and plan. This is not rocket science. Thank you Jill Geary!

Why didn't anyone note that John Stanford is too big and money must go to the schools?

I wish they'd do this again after the board has time to think about it.

Charlie Mas said...

Why did this have to be a meeting? If there was no conversation - and there doesn't appear to have been any - then why couldn't this have been done as an exchange of email?

Anonymous said...

Nary a mention by staff or board members of the sinking like a stone HCC program standards. I had a sense that they didn't much care. Now we know.


Rick Burke said...

I concur with Melissa's characterization of this Work Session as "vital". As a new Director, I'm trying to understand the moving pieces within the district, and how the Strategic Plan and SMART goals actually turn into building- and classroom-level improvements. I can say for certain that the work in the next 1-2 months will be directional for 2016. New board committees create their annual work plans and the full board establishes SMART goals. These are both points of leverage where I hope to see education advocates from the community weigh in.

Also, I want to share a December community meeting which I just booked. It will be tomorrow, Monday 12/28 at the Greenwood Public Library from 6:30 to 7:45 PM. Sorry about the short notice, but I just booked this last-minute because I wanted to hold a community meeting before the Jan 6th Board Meeting. Approval of school CSIPs are up for action, Acceptance of ORCA card grant from City of Seattle and near-term capacity management actions are up for introduction on the 6th. Of course, anything is up for discussion and I'm happy to hear your ideas for improving the district.

Please also share feedback about whether midweek evenings or weekends are preferred for future Community Meetings. If you can't make this meeting but want to bend my ear about anything, please let me know at rick.burke@seattleschools.org.

mirmac1 said...

I'm sorry I missed this meeting. I'm glad the board runs their own work sessions, rather than passive recipients of powerpoint bullet points. Rick, I agree that the next few months are vital to steering the JSCEE Titanic in the right direction.

Reba Jean said...

I am surprised by the lack of preparedness of the board, to be honest, for a conversation about the SP, Board Priorities and SMART Goals. The SMART Goal 2 (African American Male Scholars Initiative), 3 (Special Education) and 5 (Bell Times Initiative) were related to such important recent events.

See my full response in Soup for Teachers - https://www.facebook.com/groups/SoupForTeachers/permalink/543523495803760/

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well Rebecca, as I noted, staff didn't explain the direction of the meeting and with a 45-page presentation, I would have wondered myself where the time would have been for a conversation. For those of us who attend Work Sessions regularly, there is seldom a lot of conversation.

Also, as I said, why Blanford didn't bring up the AA initiative is a mystery to me.

mirmac1 said...

The Board gets Powerpoint Rebecca. No real hard information on what staff is doing in this regard. I have located a very interesting document that I'll lay bets the board has never seen. I recommend that readers download this spreadsheet. Wright underreports the number of new initiatives underway. Not 90, more like 211, estimated to cost $37M. The new Office of the Deputy Superintendent itself has 32 "asks" costing near $7M. Lots of project manager this and analyst that.

mirmac1 said...

There is little detail on the AAM initiative, just an "ask" for $1M for the Superintendent's Office.

Has anyone ever heard of Paul Riili? This is his title and job description:

Interim Executive Director, Strategic Planning and System Improvement

Seattle Public Schools

April 2015 – Present (9 months)Greater Seattle Area

Oversee activities for a district-wide program management office, including a portfolio of 130 technology and business process related projects. Manage stakeholder expectations and provide regular status to senior leadership. Provide training/coaching on project management principles to all levels of the organization. Ensure resource alignment to projects in support of the District Strategic Plan.
• Streamlined the project governance process creating a single point of entry for all district-wide projects.
• Revised and created project management methods and templates
• Developed a training plan to obtain organization buy-in on the value of project management

Anonymous said...

So wait - they (staff) couldn't be bothered to let the Board know what they hoped to gain from this particular work session?? Is it any wonder there are so many things falling thru the gaps if something as simple as this doesn't happen?

And Mirmac1 hard to say out of context, but I'm guessing those are in order of someone's preference/priority? Wowza - this one is scary need intensive audit response support (via contract) to resolve growing backlog of open internal control issues" Not to mention this under Supe "3 FTE to lead key work"hmmm......


mirmac1 said...

The list was distilled into this Powerpoint, which was likely reviewed with Exec Leadership only.

Anonymous said...

"The new Office of the Deputy Superintendent itself has 32 "asks" costing near $7M. Lots of project manager this and analyst that."
"There is little detail on the AAM initiative, just an "ask" for $1M for the Superintendent's Office."
NOW is the time for the new board to tell them: ZERO. ZERO for any of this. Nada. Zip. Niente. Rien. Make do with what you have or get the hell out.

-- Ivan Weiss

mirmac1 said...

Elements of this made it into the June Budget Ivan

reader47, my issue is with the Learning Management System and Online Learning:

"New Service: Implementation, support, maintenance and operations of a modern Learning Management System (LMS) and Classroom Data System (CDS) to support staff/instructor PD, and to support eLearning for all students

Implementing a full, robust LMS (and fully supporting it with appropriate and trained staff) can revolutionize how SPS offers classes to students, and how SPS provides opportunities for Professional Development for staff and instructors. It is long overdue.

It will position students well for Higher Education, where eLearning and Distance Education are common. This project is being funded in FY15-17 by reallocating funding from other BEX IV initiatives. Beyond that, there is no funding identified for licensing and maintenance. Funding of this starting in FY16 would allow other projects to retain their funding, and would assist in a more rapid deployment across the District.

Most of the purchase and implementation cost is being covered in FY15 (2014-2015) due to the urgency of this initiative. This also covers the increased cost of the CMS due to the loss of E-Rate funding to cover CMS costs (no longer allowed under new E-Rate rules. This includes licensing, maintenance, additional LMS staff support, etc.

Note: Funding has been re-assigned in FY16 and in FY17 to cover the majority of these costs, however, funding directly via an increase would re-establish funding in areas where funding was reduced (Student Devices, Disaster Recovery, etc.) "

This is classified as URGENT!

Frustrated said...

The fact that central office is swirling around on 200+ proposed projects is a joke. No wonder the work isn't getting done - too many meetings with staff saying these projects don't have funding, we don't have the staff to complete it, etc. Too many excuses and not enough teamwork, leadership, and transparency (and common sense). Leadership needs to make some decisions on what gets done and what does not. Also, JSCEE needs to truly manage their staff. Why is it that 10% of staff do 90% of the work? Get rid of the many non performers who just show up and don't actually deliver any work.

n said...

I was upset with all the on-line junk myself. And as for PD delivered online? Teachers actually can read. We are individually looking for information and prof development all the time because we know what we need. I'm so sick of the district deciding what we need to spend time on. It is never what I'm interested in knowing. And my needs change because my classroom and kids' needs change. You know, the isolated pomp and circumstance at John Stanford is defeating the education of SPS kids and leaving teachers exhausted and deprived of the things they need most: time to plan and good curriculum.

Lynn said...

Wait - they want to reduce interaction with/need for teachers to prepare our students for higher education that consists of eLearning and Distance Education. When were they planning to ask the community if this is what we want for our children?
This is yet another idea from downtown that makes me think driving up private school enrollment rates is the plan for dealing with overcrowded schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mirmac 1, great find. I need to look into this "personalized learning" and what BEX IV money is being converted. That is academics being described there, not capital.

I'm with others; good place for the Board to hit the pause button and ask very hard questions.

mirmac1 said...

Here's the joke. The misguided concept of "service-based budgeting" hardly looks at how current department budgets can be applied more wisely. Everything is an "add". What they should do is build budget from the ground up. Zero-based budgeting. And the board only sees the tip of the iceberg when it comes to budget and expenditures.

Anonymous said...

There were a couple of items on the list that indicated SPS was in danger of losing funding for not meeting an OSPI/Fed requirement - I would think you'd want to make sure everything in every department is meeting compliance levels before you add some of the more well, pie-in-sky type ideas like - oh - a Pre-K deputy supe and 3 more Exec directors as suggested elsewhere in mirmac1's find. Ack and double ack.


Liza Rankin said...

Melissa, the 4 Middle College sites are now run by Simon Youth Foundation, as in the Simon Malls. Goodbye social justice; hello computer-based standardized curriculum.
-Liza SfT

Watching said...

That is quite a Christmas list, Mirimac.

I was pleased to see that 54 of 84 drop-outs returned to school. Very good investment.

My eye went to the same paragraph:

"It will position students well for Higher Education, where eLearning and Distance Education are common. This project is being funded in FY15-17 by reallocating funding from other BEX IV initiatives"

I always dislike seeing costs of hardware/software/vendors and licensing costs increase. Present cost is $2.5M.

Tiered system of supports wants to increase by 26. Where will these individuals be placed and what is their job?

Watching said...

Oops, forgot to include entire paragraph:

"It will position students well for Higher Education, where eLearning and Distance Education are common. This project is being funded in FY15-17 by reallocating funding from other BEX IV initiatives. Beyond that, there is no funding identified for licensing and maintenance. Funding of this starting in FY16 would allow other projects to retain their funding, and would assist in a more rapid deployment across the District."

Robert Cruickshank said...

So basically SPS is embarking on a massive project to expand computerized learning in the classrooms, taking money from BEX to do it, and they haven't mentioned this in an open and transparent way to the public. I'm fine with some technology in the classroom, as a supplement, but I adamantly oppose having computerized learning be the main way kids learn. And I don't trust SPS to respect those wishes.

I really hope our new board is willing to put a halt to this and have a broader public conversation about what is a dramatic shift in how kids are taught - as well as how we spend money, especially at a time when SPS has so many other needs.

n said...

Not to mention the fact that the district never properly maintains technology at the school level. Ever.

Watching said...

How much of technology is related to testing needs? It is worth noting that many administrative projects require updated technology, as well.

In addition to 54 of 84 drop-outs returning to school, I am pleased to see the district address the needs of traumatized students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have made most of the Board aware of these documents and their contents.

A large portion of BTA IV is for technology work and now we see why.

Anonymous said...

These are the things that get me riled up - related to building maintenance:

"Current staffing level is low by any measure. Based on the OSPI Classified Staffing Adequacy report we should have 239 maintenance employees (currently 61) Current model is almost complete reactive maintenance which puts us at risk of lost instruction time. Emergency work order costs more than 75% of a normal work order."

Or this one - related to employee screening :
No current budget for repairs. Fingerprinting system is 8 years old and is past its expected useful life. This unit is required for screening new employees

Or this, about the Truancy program:
The Truancy office used to have 5 such persons, and over the years has been decreased to two. Now it has one person, and the district is not in compliance with state law regarding truancy, and is at risk of Losing Title 1 or other federal funds funneled through OSPS

Get your priorities straight gang. That's my money you are wasting. No more high paid deputy Supes or Ed Directors or anything of that ilk until the basics are in order. You don't go out and buy a new car when your plumbing is full of holes. Aiyiyi the thinking (or lack of it) that goes on in that place!


Melissa Westbrook said...

Amen, Reader 47. The lack of maintenance and basic items like those you listed just drive me crazy.

And, that's the fodder for "you have enough money but you don't spend it right" that Reps like to use. (But I always ask, "What would you cut?" and never get an answer.)