Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Councilman Burgess Says, "Listen to Me" - What is It that the City Really Wants to Do?

My impression of politicians who constantly beat the drum on a single issue is that they either have invested an awful lot of personal capital into the issue and/or they are great self-promoters.

I see this in Councilman Tim Burgess who has made pre-K a key issue in his roster.  He was even able to get the Times to print a "news" story today that has no real news in it as a way to remind people it's his issue.  (I'm wondering why the Times felt compelled to print this story rather than allowing Burgess an op-ed.)

His latest newsletter is a litany of "composite" stories about kids who live in the north end and kids who live in the south end.

Tuesday Open Thread

Well, whoops - it appears that thousands of Northshore students, grades 7-12,  were accidentally sent spam emails that contained porn.  This was not a hacking issue.  The Times reports that the district's tech department was able to block anymore e-mails from coming in and shut down the students' Gmail accounts temporarily.

Also on the subject of Northshore, I had written how that district was going to revamp their long-standing highly capable program despite parents' displeasure.  Apparently the parents won the day as their board voted to keep the program the same.

Good story from KUOW about music in Seattle Schools via Seattle Music Partners.  The story covers students at Bailey Gatzert, Leschi, Madrona and Lowell.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Seattle Schools This Week

Entering the last month of this school year this week, always an exciting time. 

Another School's Struggles

I was contacted some months back by some Laurelhurst Elementary parents who were, at turns, flummoxed, frustrated and frantic.  It felt to them as if their school was unraveling and, like Stevens, their principal and the district did not seem to be giving their concerns much credibility or credence.

Like the Stevens parents, they had asked for a meeting to have a whole picture meeting of the minds, with everything put out on the table.  (This after an earlier parent meeting that apparently was quite tense and non-productive, leaving both sides feeling unhappy.)

The issue with Laurelhurst is multi-faceted.   One, their school is packed to the gills even with portables.  They even have some schooling happening in the halls.  Two, the Sped EBD services there seem to be serving a larger number of students than the school can help.  When there are behavior issues, many times the aide will take a child out to the hallway but there's some kind of teaching there,  it just doesn't work.  Three, it appears to be more EBD students than they can serve because a couple of those students appear to have such severe issues that one even climbed a fire ladder and threatened to jump. 

Just like some of the Stevens parents,  the Laurelhurst parents say that some students' behavior is not addressed and it is creating an feeling of an unsafe atmosphere at school.  Just like Stevens parents, there seems to be a "lack of clarity about what behavior is and isn't permitted."  Parents have also expressed concerns over falling test scores over the last couple of years. Just like Stevens, the parents have expressed concerns over the leadership of their principal. 

My understanding is that the school does not have a full-time counselor.  Again, when you have issues about foul language or safety for elementary-aged students, it is vital to be able to explain to kids - many of whom may be too young to be developmentally able to understand the issues around other students' behaviors - what is happening.  The most recent Laurelhurst climate survey reflects that students feel less safe at their school. For parents who are not at the school and only hear from their students about what is going on because of lack of communication from the school, it makes for a worrisome situation. 

As you can imagine, this has created an "us versus them" mentality for both parents and administration. 
 But, like all parents, there is an investment for them in the school and this meeting was called to find a way forward for the best possible outcomes for all students. 

PARCC Get an "F" So What about the SBAC?

Update: read this blog thread below from Wait What and then appreciate that the Seattle School Board recently passed a resolution, 5-1 (with Director Blanford voting no and Director Geary not at the meeting), to ask the state to allow districts to be able to select/create an alternative summative assessment framework to show academic mastery.  (Their discussion is in Part Two of the video of the board meeting. Here's the cue-up from the Seattle Education blog.)

end of update

From the Wait What? blog by Connecticut writer, Jonanthan Pelto with Wendy Lecker, news that PARCC is not as advertised.   (bold his)
In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.
William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.

This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.

(Dr. Mathis’ entire piece is a must-read. Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?)
Who is William Mathis?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Washington State Superintendent Race Info

A couple of ways to learn more about who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction:

Chris Reykdal

Erin Jones

David Spring

Robin Fleming

Forum at Western Washington University (yay Western!), May 25, 2016

The forum, free and open to the public, was hosted by Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education, Bellingham Public Schools, and the League of Women Voters of Washington (Education Fund).

There appears to be another candidate to the race,  Ron Higgins, a teacher and retired engineer from West Richland. His campaign webpage makes for interesting reading.

Mr. Higgins, a former Marine, has been a math teacher in both California and Washington state in both traditional and charter schools.  He is against Common Core. He says that teachers should not have to join the union if they don't to. As well he believes schools should "treat boys as boys and girls as girls" and "prevent our students from being bullied by well-financed special-interest pressure groups that promote and affirm unhealthy lifestyles." And, "ensure that schools teach students the whole truth."

I'm thinking those statements may be code for something but I'll send Mr. Higgins my questionnaire and find out.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Is District Moving Quickly on 24-Credit Plan?

A reader alerted me to this discussion at the HCC blog:
These talking points come from one of our commenters:
I've chatted with some board members on the subject and it sounds like the high school changes are fairly far along with no alternatives even on the table. So time is short to make improvements here. The recommendation was to send mail pointing out problems with the plan. I'll also summarize all the comments here in a letter to the board at a point when there are enough to makes sense.
The district is considering changing all high schools to a 5 period, 3 trimester schedule (3x5) as a means of helping students meet the new 24-credit graduation requirement in WA State. Instead of a classes meeting 180 days a year for 6 periods a day, classes would meet 120 days a year for 5 periods a day. In theory, students would have the ability to take more classes per year and thereby increase their opportunities to meet the 24-credit graduation requirement. In reality, the 3x5 schedule poses many challenges, and may limit the class options for students.
Link to district page. 

I suggest going to Director Burke's community meeting tomorrow at Greenwood Library from 10am-noon and asking him about this.

Middle School Science Competition Has Exciting Projects

 Here's coverage of this story from GeekWire:
Five teams from the school — including seven girls and one boy — are competing in a science showdown that will draw about 150 teams from across the 52,000-student district.

Of Interest to Youth and Teens

I mentioned this before but Director Harris sent this video as a reminder.  The City's Youth Voice, Youth Choice program is giving young Seattle citizens (from 11-25) a say in how the $700,00 for this program is being spent.

Here's the link for your child or young adult to vote. Voting closes this Sunday, May 29th.
Seattle youth will come together to brainstorm ideas, vet those ideas, develop proposals, and finally vote on how to spend the budget. City of Seattle departments will then implement the winning projects.
Big, big opportunity (this also via Director Harris who is a big arts supporter) for kids who like hip-hop and rap.

How's It Going at Your School?

About testing, I heard this from a parent (verified with e-mail from school):

1) No math this week because of SBAC testing. 

All the kids in the school miss math instruction for a week because testing is going on?  That should tell you something about this test. 

2) The school has run out of paper for the students so they are recycling paper and are not assigning homework.

No paper and there's still about a month left of school?

Friday Open Thread

Good morning on the start of this Memorial Day weekend.  Please consider taking a little time to explain to your children why they have Monday off from school and the sacrifices that have been made for all of us by service members in our armed forces.

Interesting article on the growth of Montessori-based public schools (both traditional and charter.)

As a complete opposite to the Washington State Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court is taking a decidedly hands-off approach to school funding in that state.  From NPR:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Please feel free to skip this rant about advanced learning

It's been a while, but I've been feeling an Advanced Learning rant building in me. It got pushed over the edge today when I got thinking about the District's inability to implement MTSS.

For those who prefer to skip rants - and especially rants on this topic - please do skip it.

Whither the Alliance (Redux)

The Alliance for Education is looking for a new president/CEO.  The notice for the job has interesting reading.

Dorn Weighs In (Again) on McCleary

In an op-ed in the Times, State Superintendent Randy Dorn again points out what is (seemingly) obvious to everyone but some members of the legislature.

Washington State Supreme Court Rules

By unanimous vote, the Supreme Court has ruled Tim Eymann's initiative unconstitutional.  The initiative had two parts - reducing the sales tax and imposing a two-thirds vote by the legislature to raise taxes. It also may have had a back-door effect which the justices shut down, from KOMO news:

Support Washington's Paramount Duty

Please consider coming to WPD's kick-off campaign party tonight, from 5:30-7:30 at the Sarajevo Lounge, 2332 1st Avenue, in Belltown.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Should the Focus Be for Seattle Schools?

Sadly, I was unable to attend the Work Session today. I hadn't realized that the topic was adjustment of the Superintendent's SMART goals and what the focus of the district should be for 2016-2017.

I know - how to decide?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Seattle Schools Looking for Members for Capacity Management TaskForce

From SPS Communications:

Who's a Bully?

I have been noticing there is this new meme out there - grown-up bullying.  Do I think it exists? Sure but not in this new expansive definition of one person expressing unhappiness over another person's professional actions and having it called bullying.

I find this especially troubling when it comes to public servants/elected officials.  It's almost a way to deflect any kind of questioning that taxpayers may raise. 

In New York state, an anonymous person/group has created a Wall of Shame for administrators who oppose opt-outs of students in their districts/states.  (And there's another ill-used word - shame.)

Tuesday Open Thread

Just a few days left to view new K-5 Language Arts materials during the adoption process, more here.

Wondering what Donald Trump's plan is for K-12 public education?  So is everybody else. From Media Matters:
Education Week reporter Andrew Ujifusa surveyed a bipartisan group of education experts and advocates about Trump’s education stances, and found widespread confusion over what Trump believes and what he could actually accomplish. Several conservative and centrist experts concluded that Trump did not know “what the federal role is, or could be” when it came to education policy, and that he “doesn’t know what ESSA is,” referring to the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in December.
Looks like Seattle Schools is not the only district growing; Bellevue SD has grown about 600 students per year over the last few years.  From the Bellevue Reporter:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hale Has Recorded Bomb Threat - Nothing Found, Everyone Safe

Hale was evacuated this morning when staff discovered a message on voicemail about a bomb threat.  The building was emptied and SPS came in with a dog to go thru every room.  Nothing was found.  And, unlike the last time, only Hale had such a message (last time there were at least three high schools involved.

I am told this is a growing trend at high schools around the country.  

State Superintendent Questionnaire: David Spring

David Spring is one of four candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

About David (partial from his website):

Seattle Schools Once Again Shoots Itself in the Foot

The Times is reporting that the district is using the Bill Clinton school of language to explain what the word "support"means in matching funding from the Alliance for Education for the IB program at Rainier Beach High School. The Times includes footage of the Alliance event where the announcement was made by President Patu.  It must have come as quite the surprise to her to learn what "support" means. 
Despite great fanfare at the announcement that Seattle Public Schools had made an agreement to fund International Baccalaureate (IB) classes at Rainier Beach High earlier this month, the district says promising to support that program does not mean giving it extra money.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, May 24th
Special Education PTSA meeting from 5:30-7:30  7:00 pm, JSCEE Room 2765  (When this meeting was first announced, I gave it a thread by itself and had the correct day/time.  Unfortunately, I checked the district's calendar page when I made up the list for this thread and it was wrong.  I apologize for the confusion.)

Board Work Session on governance priorities and Superintendent's SMART goals from 5:30-7:30, JSCEE Room 2750.  No agenda yet available

Wednesday, May 25th
State Auditor's Office Exit Conference, 4:30-5:30pm
Board Work Session on the 2016-2017 Budget from 5:30-8:00 pm.  No agenda yet available.
Both in JSCEE auditorium  

Thursday, May 26th
Washington's Paramount Duty campaign kick-off, Sarajevo Lounge, 2332 1st Ave from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Saturday, May 28th
Community meeting with Director Burke at the Greenwood Library from 10 am-noon. 

Also to put on your calendar:

Join the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) at one of the following Washington Regional Forums to learn more about the new

June 14, 6–8 pm, Everett Community Resource Center, Everett
June 15, 6–8 pm, Emerald Ridge High School, Puyallup
June 16, 6–8 pm, Educational Service District 112, Vancouver
July 11, 6–8 pm, Educational Service District 105, Yakima
July 12, 6–8 pm, Wenatchee High School, Wenatchee
July 13, 6–8 pm, West Valley High School, Spokane
July 19, 6–8 pm, Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien

Visit our website for details and help us spread the word 

Times Kicks Some Ass on Education Funding

Section by section, little corners of hell are freezing over as I find myself agreeing with the Times on issues of public education.  (Although, sometimes it's like following a bouncing ball - I never know how I think they will come out on various education issues.)

Case in point - their Sunday editorial, Election time, so get serious on education funding. 
Candidates filed to run for the jobs of lawmaker and governor last week. When they show up on your doorstep in coming months, be ready to grill them about the state’s failure on its most important issue:

What are you going to do to fully fund education?

Washington State PTA to Members: Not Qualified to Talk about Money for Education

There was a speech that was delivered by Duncan Taylor, the interim Legislative Director, at this weekend's PTSA convention in Yakima.  I heard about it from several PTA people who told me they were quite surprised at what he said.  He skipped going over what happened at the last legislative session in Olympia which is surprising.

So the lessons learned from this past legislative session were not so important to talk about for Mr. Duncan. Unfortunately, there was one key thing that it would behoove all ed groups to understand - bring the kids.  It certainly was the tipping point for some Democratic legislators for charter law legislation. 

What did he say?

Basically, Mr. Duncan is saying PTSA shouldn't advocate for money for public education for two reasons.

One, all those numbers are too big and complex for parents to understand.

Two, it's not their mission as a group.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Washington's Paramount Duty - Let's Get This Done

People doing the hard work to get our schools fully funded; let's support Washington's Paramount Duty.

Come out for their Campaign Kickoff. 

Thursday, May 26
Sarajevo Lounge
2332 First Avenue (Belltown)
5:30-7:30 pm

Kids welcome!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mayor's Education Summit

I attended the Mayor's Education Summit (Pursuing Equity and Excellence for Every Seattle Student) at the end of April.  I attended the morning session.  (Powerpoints here near the bottom of the page.)

Why have I not written about this until now?  Well frankly, I'm not sure what to make of it.

Garfield Students: Pushing Forward on Issues

From the Facebook page of Racial Justice in Seattle Schools (I am happy to print any response from the current officers or Garfield parents who may know more - sss.westbrook@gmail.com.)

Friday Open Thread

Police in Bothell locked down Bothell High yesterday because of an attack on a shop teacher after school.  The school is closed for today as the investigation continues.  The police have not arrested anyone. The teacher is in satisfactory condition at Harborview.  The police say the school has many cameras so they hope they will be able to piece together what happened. 

Those slowdowns on the Viaduct for the next week (which SPS said may slow some bus routes)?  Apparently it's for the sequel to Fifty Shades of Gray.

Pasco School District had a "High School Reimagining Forum" this week about the 24-credit graduation requirement.  Good for Pasco.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Burton to Head Back to Garfield

Update: Ms. Burton is to return to Garfield on Monday.  The Times reports:
She is not allowed to participate in overnight field trips for two years and must attend “appropriate” trainings, Howard added.
end of update.

I do not have any details, still awaiting a press release. This comes from a Soup for Teachers post written by Ms. Burton. Director Harris weighed in and said this:
The matter was settled today. Ms. Burton is going back to Garfield to teach.
There was apparently an issue over whether Burton would be allowed to lead field trips.  We will have to find out if that was settled as well. 

One person said this:
By the way, the student who had been teaching the classes has also been punished now, for the crime of embarrassing the superintendent and his staff.
To which another person said:
Not only are they punishing her, but also those teachers who released her from their classes to cover the choir classes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seattle Schools' Nutrition Services Report Released

The district released the report that they commissioned on their Nutrition Services department.  (I already read it earlier this week from a source.)  Pegi McEvoy just did an overview presentation to the Board which sought to make the report look better than it is.  She said the consultants said that they have seen operations where the recommendation was "burn it to the ground" and that is not the case here.  The report also compliments the professionalism and genuine caring of the nutrition services staff.

Here's the report.

My big picture view?  

Special Ed PTSA Meeting (and a Ted Talk)

Via Soup for Teachers Facebook page.
Please join us Monday, May 23 at 7:00 pm for the next general meeting of the Seattle Special Education PTSA at JSCEE. Teachers, parents/guardians, students and community partners all welcome. 

There will be guest speakers talking about different home and community based interventions and resources for our students. We will be joined by Mika Rollin, BCBA, Dr Nicole Swedberg talking about Dyslexia , Louisa Hall and Melissa Morrissette from Sound Mental Health. 

Members will also be voting both for the 2016-17 Spec Ed PTSA budget and the 2016-17 Special Ed Board. 

Hope to see you there!
Great TED talk on inclusion in classrooms and why it's important. " 'Special' means separate."

This and That Locally

Update: Former state legislator, Larry Seaquist, has dropped out of the race for state superintendent.  He has decided to try to shore up Dems in the state House. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Helping Underserved Students Succeed in Engineering

Great article from UW's College of Engineering about their STARS program.
"It is a social justice issue that economically and educationally-disadvantaged students be given every opportunity to pursue high-value UW degrees, such as those offered by the College of Engineering."

Eve Riskin, professor of electrical engineering and the College's associate dean for diversity and access

Tuesday Open Thread

Not that it's really a surprise but this story from The Guardian is making news:
Allowing students to use computers and the internet in classrooms substantially harms their results, a study has found.

The paper published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that students barred from using laptops or digital devices in lectures and seminars did better in their exams than those allowed to use computers and access the internet.

The researchers suggested that removing laptops and iPads from classes was the equivalent of improving the quality of teaching.
The study was undergrads so it's not clear if the results would be the same for K-12 students.

What would help kids do better in math and English?  Apparently it's philosophy.  From Quartz:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Earthquake Safety and Seattle Schools

Update: the district reissued its list of seismic updates and it appears every school has or will be upgraded by the end of BEX IV/BTA III.

end of update.

The Times is running a series on earthquake readiness (or lack thereof) in Washington State.  In April, the City released a document that names hundreds of buildings that they believe are problematic.  And yes, there are dozens of SPS buildings on the list from every corner of the district.

(I did write about this issue back in 2013 but given the area of the country we live in, it's worth revisiting.)

I actually had already seen the list several weeks back and contacted Tom Redman, Facilities and Capital Communications Coordinator.  He didn't even know it had been put out which is odd given the number of SPS buildings on the list.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Teacher Takes Her Low Evaluation to Court...and Wins

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet via Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Latest District Answers to School Boundary Questions

FAQ: Growth Boundaries

This on high schools:
We will begin discussions of high school boundaries in 2018. No additional high school capacity will be added until the renovation of the Lincoln Building is complete. The estimated date for Lincoln to open as a high school is 2019. High school attendance area boundaries will need adjustment in order to assign students to the renovated Lincoln High School when it opens.
I'm wondering if they can really hold off discussion of this topic until 2018.

What Should the Role of Parents Be in a School?

I ask this question as two large parent issues are looming large right now.  Those issues are Building Leadership Teams (BLTs) and PTA.

Fight Over PARCC Test Questions Revealed

Update 2: this story falls into the category of the "Streisand effect" which is a meme I had not heard of before.

From Know Your Meme:
Streisand Effect refers to the unintended consequence of further publicizing information by trying to have it censored. Instead of successfully removing the information from the public, it becomes even more widely available than before as a backlash against the censorship attempt.
end of update

Update: the great public ed researcher/writer Mercedes Schneider penned a letter to the head of PARCC, Laura Slover.  I'd say it hits the mark brilliantly.

end of update

Jonathan Pelto is a fellow public ed blogger out of Connecticut who writes the blog, Wait What?  He writes about an event that happened recently when another blogger,  Professor Celia Oyler at Teachers College, Columbia University posted a blog thread at her blog, Outrage on the Page, from an anonymous teacher writing quite openly about the 4th grade PARCC test.   The teacher starts her piece this way:

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum.

What unfolded after Oyler posted this teacher's experience was the folks at PARCC having a high-level hissy fit. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Gender Neutral Bathroom to Open in SPS High School

 Update: the "Dear Colleague" letter from the Department of Justice and Department of Education on this topic that was sent to districts today.

I will note that there is a section on names/pronouns.  Personally, I would hope there would be some allowance of understanding for staff members who may sometimes err on this point.  Even the best efforts by human beings can fall short when adults fall back onto habits learned decades ago.   

There was a Jan. 2016 article in the NY Times about using new pronouns for non-gendered students.

end of update

From district Communications:

Friday Open Thread

Sanislo Elementary is holding their 2nd Annual Garage Sale this Saturday from 10:00 am-2:00pm in front of the school (1812 SW Myrtle, Seattle Wa 98106). 

If you have any items you would like to donate please drop them off that morning or contact me so I can schedule a time to pick up. You can also hold your own sale along side our sale if you would like!  David Flores  Cell- 5035508684 Call or Text

The PTA is working hard at trying to raise funds for after school programs for next year. If you have not already heard the bell times will be changing dramatically. This years start time is 9:30 and ends at 3:40. Next years start time is 7:55 and ending at 2:05. We realize that this might become a inconvenience for some parents so hopefully with fundraisers like this we will be able to provide after school programs with little to no cost! 
Thanks for your support.
No board director community meetings tomorrow.

Seattle Schools Communications lost its head, Jacque Coe, and now spokesperson Stacy Howard is leaving.  I wonder who I get to talk to now.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Seattle International Film Festival Starts Soon

SIIF starts next Thursday, May 19th and runs thru June 12th.

Of interest:

Dorn Won't Be Running for Governor

The AP is reporting that State Superintendent Randy Dorn, who had been making noises about running for governor, has officially stated he will not.  Dorn had wanted to run to call attention to the lack of funding for public schools but decided his heart was not in the other responsibilities like transportation and public safety.

That leaves our current governor, Jay Inslee, a Democrat, running against Bill Bryant, a Republican, who is a businessman and former Port Commissioner, who remain in the race.

Please Let the District Know Your Thoughts on Their Website

It's a fairly short and simple survey but please, if you have issues with the website, let them know.

Legislators Give Themselves a "C" for School Funding Efforts

Update:  From Washington's Paramount Duty board member, Summer Stinson, who attended the committee meeting:
Honestly, I'm incredibly personally perplexed by the legislature's reliance on charter schools as evidence that they've improved basic education in common schools. I'm nearly at a loss of words. So, I will rely on the legislature's words here.
On page 6 of the report, the legislature lists the charter school bill as an example of "enacted policy legislation to support basic education and other legislative education priorities."
Even worse than that is the legislature's statement on page 25: "First, [the state's] budget assumes that there will be a decrease in the caseload number of students enrolled in common schools as those students move from existing common schools to charter schools, so it makes a downward adjustment to funding for common schools and add corresponding funding for charter school enrollments."
end of update

There I was, all ready to go to bed, when I get a text from Washington Paramount Duty co-founder, Summer Stinson.  Summer, who apparently doesn't sleep, had attended the legislature's "work group" on McCleary meeting and was letting me know a couple of items mentioned.  She then sent me a link to this article in the The News Tribune.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Looks Like Something Serious Will Get Discussed Tonight

Checking the Board's webpage, as I often do, I find that the Work Session on HR has been stripped down because....

Closed Session, per RCW 42.30.140, and Executive Session: Potential Litigation, Evaluate the Performance of a Public Employee

Homeschooling: It's Changing, Too

In African-American Communities, More Interest in Homeschooling from KPLU earlier this year.

Follow up Q & A from Highly Capable Oversight meeting

The Friday memo to the Board for May 6 includes answers to questions from the Board that could not be answered at the Curriculum and Instruction Management Oversight meeting. It makes for interesting (and odd) reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

There is No "Free" in "Free Pre-K" (Not for SPS)

A comment caught my eye (and I have already heard this discussion elsewhere but FYI):

don't know if families are aware that SPS developmental preschools or Seattle City preschools will be using the elementary (where they are placed) school's resources (nurse, PT, OT, principal, etc.) but are NOT counted in the overall student count.

This is truly absurd and is and will be stretching schools to do much more with less.

- very concerned teacher

Seattle School Board Needs to Investigate Sub Payment

Update: here's the explanation of all this from the Audit&Finance agenda for tomorrow, starting on page 57.

From the BAR:

Under Board Policy 6220, Procurement, agreements and financial commitments over $250,000 require Board approval. While this agreement should not have been executed by a District staff member and implemented without prior Board approval, it is being brought to the Board for ratification at this time out of recognition of the legal difficulties in rescinding the agreement and recouping payment, as well as the importance of maintaining our positive relationships with Seattle Education Association (SEA) and our substitutes.
My translation is that a single staff member took it upon his or herself to approve this spending and that, while that part was not legal, it was done as part of an agreed-to portion of the CBA and most of the money has already been distributed.

I think we can all understand that undoing it would not be helpful (in the name of strictly following policy.)

However, the BAR does not name the employee.  Why not? This is just like the Garfield field trip incident to New Orleans where we don't get to know who the employee was who decided that Garfield's staff didn't need to know about previous issues with the problem student.

These people are operating under the authority of the district and we, as taxpayers, are paying them.  Don't we get to know who they are or, at the least, know that they have been appropriated disciplined/reoriented on their duties?

So I'll say who it is - it was Geoff Miller, Deputy of Labor and Employee Relations.  (One reader said it appeared Mr. Miller is leaving in September but I don't have verification of this.) 

More from the BAR:

The District staff member apparently executed the Settlement Agreement without any prior notice or approval of any other District leadership member and it was not presented to the Board for approval prior to execution as required by Board Policy No. 6220. 

During the final processing of the TRI payment called for by the agreement, it was discovered that the Settlement Agreement would cost the district $661,073 for the 2014-2015 and 2013- 2014 school year payments; and $105,425 for the 2012-2013 school year payments. The total financial commitment of the agreement as signed was thus $766,498.
This narrative brings up another point.  SEA knows the rules. They have lectured the Board on Board policies when they were not followed.  And, yet nothing got said here.

More than $600,000 got paid out before the Assistant Superintendent for HR was notified or the Supeirntendent or Board.  I'll be frank and I don't mean any disrespectful but I find it very difficult to believe that no one in senior management knew about this.  That is a heck of a lot of money and it would seem that before that got spent, someone up the food chain would have to sign off on it.

The policy, according to this narrative, says that there IS a procedure with multiple steps and yet every step seems to have been ignored.

"...an existing procedure to staff that requires all settlement agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to be evaluated prior to execution.
So are all those people involved in those steps going to be asked why they ignored them?

end of update

My e-mail to the Board:

Dear Directors,

I am being told that substitute teachers received this e-mail today from their leadership (bold mine:)

Tuesday Open Thread

 Summer learning opportunities via the Families&Education levy for rising kindergarteners to rising ninth graders.

Summer learning classes in math and science for teachers via UW's Computer Science & Engineering Department. 

Seattle Schools would like your feedback on your enrollment experience.

Please complete these surveys below to partner with us in making improvements for the Open Enrollment/School Choice process:
  1. Admission Staff Experience
  2. School Choice Experience
Please join us at the next general meeting of the Seattle Special Education PTSA! The meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 23 at the JSCEE at 7:00 pm. We will have guest speakers talking about different interventions/resources available for our students including the areas of dyslexia, mental health and ABA therapy. Also we also hold the election for next years board members. It will be a robust and exciting agenda. Hope to see you all there!
    What's on your mind?

    Monday, May 09, 2016

    Bus Routes Return to Same Routes pre-Viaduct Closure

    From the SPS Twitter account:

    bus routes will return to normal tomorrow.

    Seattle Schools News

    Good News
    Mark Perry, the long-time principal at Nova High School, was honored by the Alliance for Education's Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence as a distinguished principal.  Perry will receive a $50,000 cash grant for his school.  He has been principal at Nova for 16 years.

    Sunday, May 08, 2016

    Seattle Schools This Week

    Monday, May 9th
    Curriculum&Instruction Meeting, JSCEE, from 4:30-6:30 pm Agenda
    Lots of reviews with one of them being "research activity and assessment" - wonder if that will be an assessment of how testing is going this school year.  Under "Special Attention Items" there is "Native American update, K-5 ELA Adoption* and Initiate Middle School math adoption."

    Open House for English Language Arts Adoption at JSCEE from 5-7 pm in the second-floor library.

    Wednesday, May 11th
    School Nurse Day - thank you to all the nurses and health care professionals working in Seattle Schools for caring for our students!

    Board Work Session - Human Resources From 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda
    Executive Session immediately following - closed to the public

    This is a rather timely work session given issues that have arisen around who gets hired and who stays and who gets placed where at several of the district's schools. 

    Thursday, May 12th
    Audit&Finance Committee meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm No agenda yet available.

    International School and Dual Language Immersion Programs meeting - 6:00-7:30 pm at Hamilton International Middle School.

    Friday, May 13th
    BEX Oversight Committee meeting canceled for this month.

    No Saturday community meetings with directors.

    *On English Language Arts Adoption
    - committee members
    - ELA materials and ways to give feedback
    - Process and timeline

    Local This and That

    Update: of interest this week is the Board Work Session.  The topic? HR.  More on this in the thread, Seattle Schools This Week to come.

    end of update

    Neither Roosevelt nor Garfield placed in the top three for the Essentially Ellington competition in NYC but congrats to all these musicians for getting there and representing Seattle.

    The Times has two articles of note on Seattle Schools.

    One is about librarians and libraries in SPS.  A group of SPS librarians did their own research on funding for libraries and the fruit of their work is troubling.   For many libraries, the library fund is very dependent on the PTA.  From the article:

    Happy Mother's Day

    Borrowing this sentiment from the Seattle Education blog (Dora Taylor and Carolyn Leith):

    Mothers Day

    Friday, May 06, 2016

    Speaking of Rigor, here's a story from the Northshore School District

    Northshore School District in Bothell has a junior high program for more rigor called the Challenge program.  It is all self-selected like an ALO.  The district adopted it to meet four goals:

    Friday Open Thread

    Crosscut asks the question - Are Seattle schools prepared for heroin epidemic?

    They are talking about having the drug naloxone in schools as a quick remedy for someone who has overdosed on heroin.  Seattle police have successfully saved three lives in the last month.
    Locally, Mayor Ed Murray has repeatedly blamed heroin for contributing to the exploding homeless population. He and King County Executive Dow Constantine recently convened the Task Force on Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction, made up of political and health officials. Two representatives from Seattle Public Schools — Assistant Superintendent of Operations Pegi McEvoy and Executive Director of School Health Patricia Sander — are members of that task force, a recognition that schools must play a role in fighting heroin use.
    As early as summer 2014, board members of the National Association of School Nurses started discussing whether naloxone should be a part of schools’ response plans.
    Some are comparing having naloxone in a school to having a defibrillator or epi-pen.

    Thursday, May 05, 2016

    Transgendered Restroom Use Bill Could Bankrupt System

    We are not North Carolina and this has got to be a no if only because of the financial ramifications (but, of course it isn't only about money.)

    From The Stranger:

    Washington State could lose as much as $4.4575 billion annually in federal funding—and much of it for the state's public schools—if voters pass anti-trans bathroom initiative 1515, according to a new report.

    Dear Substitutes, Here's a Start to Your Thread

    From SPS Communications:

    District investigating financial agreement made by former employee

    SEATTLESeattle Public Schools is looking into a settlement agreement that a former district employee entered into with Seattle Education Association (SEA) for more than $500,000, and without superintendent or School Board approval. The agreement is related to long-term pay for substitutes, some of which has already been distributed.

    The district will complete a review of how this occurred and continue legal assessment to decide a course of action. The district will provide updates as they become available.

    Seattle Schools 2016-2017 Calendar Approved by Board

    The 2016-17 school year calendar was approved by the Seattle Public Schools School Board on May 4, 2016.

    Editor's note: the winter break this year will be an entire week.  The calendar trades off every other year with just a couple of days to an entire week.  This is a negotiated item in the teachers contract.

    Important dates include:

    Wednesday, May 04, 2016

    Listening in on the School Board Meeting

    Update #2: The Seattle Times is reporting that the district has put Carol Burton, the music teacher at Garfield, on administrative leave "while the district finds another job for her."  

    Ms Burton described the news to the Times as being like "getting kicked in the stomach."

    SEA president-elect Phyllis Campano, in her testimony at last night's Board meeting, tried to talk about the issue but got waved off by President Patu due to Board rules about testifying about a specific personnel matter.  She went on to speak generally about how administrative leaves are costly for the district and hard on teachers.

    What Seattle Schools Students are Talking About

    I attending the morning section of the Mayor's Education Summit at Garfield High last Saturday (and will write a separate thread.) 

    Local This and That

     GiveBIG has been extended to midnight tonight because of technical difficulties yesterday.  Please consider giving so that your donation gets stretched from their giving fund.

    Have you been keeping up with the story on Bellevue High school and their football team?  Long story short, they became a football powerhouse when they hired a new coach around 2000.  The team has won multiple state titles since then.  But their school board heard rumors of improprieties and hired two lawyers to investigate. The main issue is students who don't live in their district being on the team as well as some of them not even attending the school and being at some off-site non-Bellevue district diploma mill program. And, Bellevue High had many more transfers of students who ended up playing football there than other high schools in the district.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2016

    Autism Intervention in the Community; Talk at UW

    From UW's 11th Annual Allen L. Edwards Psychology Lectures; Connecting the Dots between Research and the Community:

    Wednesday, May 4th - Autism Intervention in the Community
    Lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. and take place in Kane Hall 130.
    with UW professor Wendy Stone and University of Pennsylvania professor David S. Mandell.
    Families of young children often face obstacles as they navigate the path from being concerned about autism to initial diagnosis and treatment. Wendy Stone and David S. Mandell share strategies—from the doctor’s office to the classroom—for ensuring that children get the autism-specialized services they need.

    Stevens Elementary: A Case Study in the Importance of a Principal

    Update from Principal Archer:
    I am sorry for the delay. Unfortunately, I am still waiting for authorization from Executive Director Pritchett. This past two weeks, staff was surveyed and I personally approached several staff members about camp. Everyone has refused to accompany the children to camp. I offered to accompany them to allay concerns regarding the larger district context around overnight trips, but was not able to get anyone to commit. I have an alternative plan awaiting approval from Ms. Pritchett. Until I receive that approval, I am unable to comment on the status of the field trip. I would rather wait and give everyone accurate information than tell you what I "think" might happen, get people's hopes up, and then have to disappoint everyone.
    Again, I apologize for the delay but in this case, proceeding carefully and making sure all procedures are followed is of paramount importance.
    end of update

    Tuesday Open Thread

    Better late than never.

    Malia Obama has chosen Harvard for her college career.  Not such a shocker but what is interesting is she is taking a gap year and going into Harvard in fall 2017.  It makes sense given she would go in as the daughter of the ex-president and not a current one.  Obama seems downright wistful at seeing his little girl go off to college - very sweet.  The Obamas are also staying put for two years in D.C. for their other daughter, Sasha, to be able to finish high school where she started.

    Good discussion on a gap year from NPR

    GiveBIG Donation Delays

    Update: from Seattle Foundation:

    GiveBIG is going to go on thru midnight tomorrow, May 4th, because of technical difficulties at their website today.

    end of update

    I was having a hard time figuring out how to donate at their site and it turns out they are so flooded with donations, their technology couldn't keep up.  Please check back in at the website later today.

    Rainier Beach IB Program Gets a Boost from the Alliance for Education

    From SPS Communications:
    The Alliance for Education and Seattle Public Schools today announced a multi-year agreement to sustain the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Rainier Beach High School, which has been at risk of being discontinued at the end of the current academic year due to lack of funds.
    The Alliance for Education has pledged $50,000 per year in philanthropic funds for each of the next three school years – 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 – for a total of $150,000. This pledge has been made possible through the early support of the Thomas B. Foster Endowment and the John Stanford Fund. Seattle Public Schools will fund the remaining costs of the program and will be examining mechanisms to sustain the program beyond the 2018-2019 school year.

    Monday, May 02, 2016

    Seattle Schools This Week

    Tuesday, May 3rd
    Teacher Appreciation Day.  #ThankaTeacher
    Naramore poster art
    If I could thank a teacher, I'd thank my second grade teacher, Mrs. Gates, for her kindness and letting us listen to musicals, I'd thank my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Springer, who was a giant to me (he was 6"3" and I was very small but he was a giant in his patience as well), and Mr. Brendan, my band teacher in both middle and high school ,who believed in excellence even in a small, dusty border town.

    Operations Committee Meeting at JSCEE from 4:30-6:30 pm. Agenda
    Looks like a pretty straightforward meeting but there is to be a bell times update (but there is no attachment to the agenda.)

    International School and Dual Language Immersion programs meeting from 6-7:30 pm at Mercer Middle International School.

    African-American Male Scholars Initiative Community Meeting from 6-7:30 pm at the New Holly Gathering Hall.

    GiveBIG day - all day - please consider donating to a group doing good works for Seattle children, whether in education or not.

    McCleary - Why is this So Hard to Get Done?

    At Seattle Channel's Seattle Speaks event a couple of weeks back, Senator Michael Baumgartner, in passing, mentioned "the McCleary wars."  I was taken aback but I shouldn't have been.

    I mean you'd have to be blind not to see that the conservatives in this state don't want to have to find the money.  I think they purposefully have dragged this out so that they can make it as hard as possible for the liberals to get this done.  In other words, make it a bloody fight where everyone gets a little something but, in the end, there will be those who lose.

    Sunday, May 01, 2016

    Center School to have School Walkout Tuesday

    From Soup for Teachers:
    The Center School, an arts-based public choice school is under threat of losing fine arts classes due to budget constraints.  (Editor's note; if this happened, it fundamentally changes what this school was created to be. Website description of the school: The Center School (TCS or Center) is a small public high school with a focus on the arts and community engagement.)

    Tuesday, May 3rd at 9am students will be walking out of school (this will be an unexcused absence), over to Westlake, then taking the light rail to SPS in SODO. They will then protest and chant outside until someone comes to meet with them. Their goal is to let SPS know how upset they are with the budget and to demand action from the district to get all the fine arts classes back. 

    Parents are welcome and encouraged to join for any or all part of the walkout. Please share about it on social media and spread the word! Any press would be great. 

    Wednesday, May 4th students and parents from Center will be at the School Board meeting. Some will be giving public testimony. Again, it would be great to have support at the meeting. Thank you!

    Thank you to ALL Who Work and Serve our Schools

    I managed to miss Volunteer Week.

    I managed to miss Administrative Professionals Day.

    And now it's Teacher Appreciation Week from May 2-7.

    So to all those parents who raise money, go on field trips, make the grounds nicer and help out in our classrooms.  Thank you.

    To all those administrative assistants who really are the backbone of any office. Thank you.  (I want to send a special shout out to Aleta Paraghamian in the office of the superintendent.  No matter who is the superintendent, she is always kind and professional and I think this district is lucky to have her.)

    And to teachers, where would our kids be without you? Thank you.  

    Here's a link to some coupon help from different companies for teachers this week including Apple, Aerosoles, Banana Republic, Barnes&Noble, Chipotle, JoAnn Fabric, and the Loft.

    Job Fair for 16-24 Age Group on May 5th

    From the Starbuck's newsroom: 

    Coalition of 40 Top U.S. Companies Set to Launch Long-Term Hiring Effort in Seattle to Bring Jobs to Opportunity Youth – 16- to 24-Year-Olds Who Are Not in School or Employed

    Hundreds of Interviews and On-the-Spot Job Offers Available at Free Hiring Event at CenturyLink Field Event Center May 5 from 9 am to 4 pm.


    It's that time of year at the Seattle Foundation where your donation to your favorite group gets a bump up.  If you are really busy, you don't have to wait for Tuesday, May 3rd; they have made it possible to schedule your donation.

    Plus there's this:
    Corporate sponsored Golden Tickets will be announced throughout the day on GiveBIG giving lucky donors a chance to win additional bonus dollars for their favorite nonprofit.
    In addition, you can share your GiveBIG support with your friends for a chance to win a 24-person SoundersFC suite for you and your favorite nonprofit! Enter to win by using the hashtag #givebig and tagging @soundersfc and @Seattle Foundation in any Facebook post (see example message below). View full terms and conditions.
    If you have more than one group you want to support, you can help up to 30 groups in one transaction.

    My rough count is over 1,000 groups represented with education (at 363) just bumping out arts&culture (at 357.)  I see a few oddities in the education group (Crosscut?)

    There are many SPS groups like Ballard High foundation, Denny Sealth Performing Arts, Friends of Garfield Orchestra, Graham Hill PTA, Hazel Wolf K-8 PTA, Highland Park PTA, Ingraham Rocket Club, John Muir PTA, Kimball PTA, Roosevelt High Foundation, Seattle World School Alumni Scholarships, STEM K-8 PTA, and Thurgood Marshall PTA.

    Wondering who else to donate to in the education realm?  I recommend the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, TAF (Technology Access Foundation), NW School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children, and SOWA (School's Out Washington.)

    But no matter what category you support or what group, this is really a great day to stretch those donor dollars AND show what a caring community we live in.  Their goal is $20M in 24 hours. 

    There are no small donations when you give from the heart.

    This and That

    Students in the gifted program knew they do well in math but thought this test was way too easy. That's because the algebra test they were supposed to take wasn't what they got.  Among the other tidbits of info from this story.
    Christiana said he doesn't think it's fair to the students that they wasted an afternoon on the wrong test. "Now they are told their test was nonsense and they have to take another one," Christiana said. "I am frustrated, and they are not giving us any answers."
    Less than a week earlier, students were locked out of PARCC testing because of an error by an employee at Pearson, the company that provides the exams.

    Teachers are instructed not to look at student's computer screens during PARCC testing, even if a student has a question, said Matthew Stagliano, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.
    So the kids can tell something is wrong on the test and can't point it out to the teacher?  I'm assuming that's because the teacher isn't supposed to see the questions but this all seems pretty unfair if something is wrong.

    School staff having guns in schools? How about anybody bringing a gun into a school because, after all, it is election day.