Monday, January 11, 2016

Highlights from School Board and Executive Committee Meetings

School Board meeting highlights (thru Board comments).  Here's the full video:
- the seating on the dais now reflects the new positions of both President Patu and VP Peters.  I had to smile at the seating of the lively Director Harris next to the more subdued Superintendent Nyland.

- Director Pinkham was delayed and did not get to the meeting until nearly the end of public testimony (around 6:15 pm.)

Superintendent Nyland's Comments

I'll just open by saying if there are to be presentations as part of his comments, he needs to edit his comments down.  This was very long and tiring part of the meeting especially for coming at the very beginning of the meeting.

Having said that, how refreshing to have concerns raised about different issues via past public testimony and/or e-mails and then see staff get up to talk about those issues at a Board meeting.

Nyland mentioned:
  • Olympic Hills Elementary had the greatest value-added growth in the state.
  • Aki Kurose's principal, Mia Williams, is going to the White House in support of President Obama's My Brother's Keeper program.
  • He thanked the City and the voters for dollars that will support the ORCA card program for more high school students.
  • He mentioned the Native American program centered at Chief Sealth and Denny Middle which have the highest numbers of Native American students as well as shoring up the Latino program, Proyecto Saber (which was good news to hear.)
  • He mentioned the district would be looking at SBAC results from other cities and states.
  • He said that he had met with Seattle legislators about the "levy cliff" and that they need a solution in 2016 to avoid layoffs in 2017.  
The four presentations during his comments were for EEU (Wyeth Jessee), Math in Focus (Anna Box) and Middle School College (and I did not note the staffer for this one) and Before/After school care space (Flip Herndon.)

Mr. Jessee said that there had been a contract for years for the EEU program but that they are out of compliance with the funding.  (My question would have been, "Why did it take you years and years to figure this out?")

He said it was a complex issues because it was a public institution providing private services and it was not connected with SPS.  He said he was meeting with OSPI this month and would be meeting with EEU staff on Friday (that would have been the 8th.)

Director Peters asked if some students were SPS Gen Ed K-students, didn't they bring their own funding? He said yes but then said it didn't matter.  Peters didn't follow up and it left me confused.

Then she asked the key question (see minute of video because it's worth looking at the faces) - Has OSPI found this EEU program to be non-compliant?  His answer was no.

Math in Focus
Ms Box said this was the second year for MiF and went thru the number of teacher trainings.

Director Burke asked about the investment in PD and how much of that was Scope and Sequence?
Ms. Box said there were two days of PD for teachers and a half-day for principals in original purchase.

Director Harris pointed out that Ms. Box had used both "required" and "optional" in her presentation and asked that that be clarified via the Friday Memo.

Director Peters worried aloud about hearing about not using the textbooks and how that hurts the integrity of the curriculum.

Box said that antedotally she had heard that some teachers and principals didn't think MiF was aligned to Common Core but Box said "there's good math in there."  She asked, "What is curriculum?" and said that there is "growing understanding of that word and it includes textbook, standards and assessments." She said that S&S was "our task" as part of a larger goal to have SPS create a document that would allow teachers to meet standards.

Middle College High
The High Point site is closed and they have three locations left but some issues around staffing.  It was also noted that the Gates Foundation has a "Big History" project and two teachers took the training for that and that it has not changed the social justice focus of the program.

It was also stated that they wanted to move MC to be STEM-focused as part of a national MC consortium.

Director Peters noted that she had been on the Curriculum & Instruction meeting for two years and this history had never been explained to them even as changes were planned for MCH.

Before and After School Care Spaces
Flip Herdon said they continue to seek space for instructional space for students.  He said they are refining enrollment projections and sent a letter to their community-based partnership who provide b/a care services.  He said the district knew this was an important issue for parents but that the district has to find the instructional space.

Director Harris asked about the City and Parks for alternative space to not leave families high and dry.  She also asked if maybe this might be a good time to bring back the FACMAC committee.

Herndon said he has monthly conversations with the City.  (I found that quite interesting as I'd love to know what the specific topics of conversation are.)  Parks is part of that group, he said.

I will say that my spidey radar is going off here (as it did during the Executive Committee meeting when this topic came up.)  I would be willing to bet that at least three of those 19 initial before/after care spaces may be penciled for the City's pre-k program.

After the Superintendent's comments, there was some adjusting of the agenda with multiple motions that left audience and even Director Blanford confused with him asking, "I'm curious to what just transpired."

Public Testimony

First up was Roosevelt student Nate Koidahl who talked about Roosevelt's "Month of Love" and Kindness Week.  He said they are having their annual pancake breakfast to raise money for a homeless shelter.  He also spoke about their Diversity Week and that they had concerns over parents being able to bring in food that reflected their families' background and Board policy 6700 over not selling outside food.

I would suggest to the Board that the policy be amended so that schools get 1-2 times a year for just such celebrations/events so that they can build unity and understanding thru sharing of food.  I would hope the unions would understand and support these student/family engagement efforts.

Another student group came to complain about the water at school.  They said that the signs in the bathrooms saying "don't drink the water" makes students suspicious of water in the fountains.  As Well, they said that the water fountains had "dirt, gum and food" in them.  To which I say, kids, you gotta police yourselves.  It's not adults putting food and gum in the fountains.  They are right on water quality but not on the cleanliness issue.

Teacher Robert Femiano came forward with powerful testimony on how Readers and Writers Workshop is "mandated" in many schools but doesn't use phonics.  He said that he used phonics for four years straight in his classroom and got better outcomes. He said he would train K-3 teachers for free on how to teach phonics.

There was also an interesting piece of testimony from Dr. James Gore who questioned the programming for Hale's FM radio station C89.5.  He said that it is very limited and, that since it is the only high school station in the district, other program should be allowed.

Still another one-off piece of testimony came from Lt. Colonel Vylius Leskys, who is also a lawyer,  who said there were "anti-military orgs" on high school campuses who had "overly broad access to students."  He said these groups set up tables next to military service groups and that "would you allow anti-Peace Corps groups in?"  He said that these groups should not have access to "our schools and they should be banned."

That was rather jaw-dropping for a couple of reasons.  One, about 10 years ago those groups offering optional ideas to military service had to fight to get INTO public schools because those groups said that the military was getting in too often. Kind of interesting that the problem seems to flow the other way now.  As well, military groups were focusing on a few high schools over all of them and were visiting multiple times during the year.

Two, how do you ban groups from speaking freely in a public venue under a state law?  It was a little surprising to hear a lawyer say that.

Students who worked to gain ORCA cards for more low-income students were also in attendance and asked that they be at the table to work out details on these cards.  I note that the cards are only for use during the school year and not the summer (per the BAR.)  These students want students who live closer than one mile to ALSO get the cards.  I think the students have valid issues and since they did the heavy lift to push the City/district on this issue, they should be at the table. (And were later told they would be.) 

But most of the testimony was about the EEU program at UW.  There was very emotional and moving testimony from both current and past parents about how this program changed their lives.   One parent said of her child, "Autism doesn't define him here."

To a person, every member of the Board said they supported this program and would be disappointed with its loss.

Board Comments

Director Geary will be visiting every school in her region and asked schools/PTAs to contact her.  She said she would like to visit every school that might want her to visit.

Director Harris said she felt the interaction between the new Board and staff was going well and they are "responsive."

Director Peters thanked Soup for Teachers for the food at the Board retreat.  She said, on EEU, "My request is to find a way to keep it going."  

Director Burke said that Readers and Writers Workshop was not Board-adopted curriculum and yet it's part of many CSIPs and he looks to staff to clarify that.  He also was very excited about his visit to Boren STEM because of his background as an engineer.  He wanted to ask the public about his community meetings - should there be evening ones on weekdays, weekends or mix it up for the best reach?

Director Blanford said that he could not believe a program such as EEU (with their results) could be "at peril" over accounting issues.

Director Pinkham said his son had attended EEU.

President Patu said she absolutely wanted students to be in a meeting on the ORCA cards.   She also read a statement about being elected president that I will publish separately.

This is where I left the meeting. 

Executive Committee - January 7, 2015

Before the meeting started, the members of the Committee, Patu, Harris and Peters, decided to expand the discussion on the Mary Walker School District and charter schools.  I have already discussed what was said elsewhere but it is clear that the district is not going to be muscled by anyone on this issue and will fight back.

I was only at two-thirds of the meeting where the agendas for the discussions on the next two board meetings, the before/after school space issue and the charter school issue.

The first discussion was around repurposing up to 19 current before/after school spaces.  Dr. Nyland said there would be a Q&A at the district website about the "pecking order" for space.  He noted that the district has a 90-day agreement with these groups and that he wants to be able to give them the best, clear information possible.

Herndon talked about how they had modified a couple of janitor's closets and teachers lounges for space.

Director Peters asked about a "sound rationale for choices?"  Herndon talked about the last six years of growth.  Peters said a graph of that growth would be great and Director Harris said it was possible that SCPTA Board member Eden Mack might have such a chart.

Dr Nyland said there were two things coming.

1) Enrollment projections have been high the last three years so they need to retweak their formula and not overshoot.
2) He said to avoid the situation from staffing issues last fall, perhaps they do mitigation earlier and then tighten staffing in the summer.  He also said they might set aside some money for this purpose.

He said that they may have to go into the fall leaner than we have in the past.  He said, "Everyone wants answers and advance notice and we can't tell in every classroom and every building in advance."

Again, I note that Dr. Herndon was asked if any of these classrooms were going to pre-K and he said, "Not that I know of, I don't think so."  Well, I would hope that whoever is looking at pre-k would be consulting with both Enrollment and Facilities and if not, why not?  I'm a little concerned here about what may be going on.

Director Harris said it was important to make it clear to before/after school providers that they were not being pushed out for another program.

1 comment:

mirmac1 said...

SpEd services were funneled into those janitor's closets and storage rooms. Why the &*%$# do city preschoolers get new classroom spaces?!