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.

“They have enough money to make the hard choices to pay for that program, though it’s always at the expense of something else,” Deputy Superintendent Stephen Nielsen said. “We never said we were going to add dollars above and beyond what they are already getting.”

“This has everything to do with what ‘support’ means in Seattle,” Nielsen said. “The way we do things is unique, and I’ll own that. But we have not walked away.”

No offense but bullshit.  The district could have stated what they meant by "support" from the get-go and did not.  I would ask Mr. Nielsen not only to "own" how SPS operates but to "own" that this was a foul-up of the highest order.  I can only wonder what the RBHS students will think.

To add insult to injury, State Senator Pramila Jayapal, from the 37th LD in Seattle, wrote an insert for the state budget, targeted to RBHS' IB program.  The grant was written for high schools with a 70% F/RL and an IB program.

Except she forgot to mention this to anyone at RBHS and the one other school that qualifies is Yakima's Davis High.  Nielsen says SPS is applying - there is no mention of when the application is due - but again, a day late and maybe a dollar short.

I said I was going to read the district's "Gold" book on the budget and now I really need to.  Because truly, where is all the money going?  Why is the district's policy to open programs that they cannot fiscally support?

This is all fairly frustrating when you have the state PTA saying parents shouldn't be wasting their time advocating for McCleary and the district's largest grant partner is PTA funds.

What's a parent to think?

One thought I have is that maybe the last Board should not have extended Superintendent Nyland's contract an extra year.

As well, I was told that the overnight field trip for 5th graders at Stevens Elementary is back on and the students will take that trip in a couple of weeks.  But the Times reports that none of the 5th grade teachers are going but soon-to-leave Stevens' principal, Kelley Archer, is. Principal Archer says she doesn't know "specifically" why teachers aren't going.  What does SEA say?

Phyllis Campano, acting president of the Seattle teachers union, said the teachers did have concerns about safety, specifically student behavior, and they wanted to have more adults than the minimum requirement. 

“It was about putting the right supports in place, like extra staffing (on the field trip),” Campano said. “The teachers felt the district didn’t do that.”
Some students aren't going either:
Parents said about a fifth of the students aren’t going either because of their own concerns about safety — or as a show of support for their teachers.
What's somewhat concerning is that issues that the teachers would know about with students are not going to be shared with parents.  Here's what one parent said:
“Am I going to camp with kids that have something going on that I don’t know about?” she asked. 
I am now learning that there are major issues happening at Laurelhurst Elementary with student behavior that some parents believe is concerning/endangering for other students including two alleged suicide attempts.  That is deeply troubling especially for an elementary school.  More on this to come.


Anonymous said…
Regarding the field trip: this whole ordeal represents a massive failing on the part of district administrators and principals. When there were some serious discipline problems with one of my kid's class at JAMS, we were notified the first day it happened...the first day..... by email - an email cc'd to all the parents and teachers involved. In this way, we as parents were able to ask our kids about it and keep tabs on the situation. Otherwise, my kid would never have mentioned it - I would have never known what was going on. The situation was monitored over the course of a couple of weeks and was eventually solved by the principal and teachers by splitting up some kids that were acting out. We have found the principal at JAMS to be a really excellent principal. However, it appears to me that many of the principals - are failing to support teachers and students at their schools - perhaps at the expense of toadying to the central administration. Principals have told us over the years that the central administration does not want to hear about any problems - thus eliminating the ability for principals to advocate for their schools as that will adversely affect their "career path". Furthermore, this oppressive atmosphere can only contribute to a "code of silence" among staff whenever something happens - at least until a crime is committed and everybody ends up in court. And we have seen that when this happens the teachers are required to take the fall.

-SPS parent
Eric B said…
I try really hard to assume positive intentions. Things like the RBHS IB situation make that difficult.

What is wrong with telling RBHS that SPS will fund the remaining $200K if the state grant doesn't come through? And why on earth is there nobody at SPS that reads the entire state budget document? They shouldn't have to depend on legislators to find the Easter eggs, whether those are good or bad.
Anonymous said…
Someone needs to find that money for RBHS. Here are my suggestions,

Get rid of the MAP for K-2. It is a useless exam. My very solid student's scores fluctuated by 30(out of 100 total) points over the 5 times he was required to take the MAP in K and 1. Why? Perhaps because he boys aren't expected to develop academically until closer to 2nd grade. Perhaps because he didn't like the sandwich I packed for him for lunch. Perhaps because there was a squirrel outside. Get rid of the useless MAP and part of the $500,000 a year they spend on in could easily be used to support RBHS.

Fire the communications department. Any department that can spin the fantastic news that SPS will be reducing class sizes into horrible news that split grade level classes will be increasing next year, leaving parent confused and upset, is not earning its salary.

-So Frustrated
Ramona H said…
On RBHS, I wonder if failure to provide funds for Sealth's program plays into this. I want the program supported ... but picking and choosing who gets extra without any directive policy is troubling as a matter of principle. Makes me miss weighted student formulas.
Ramona H said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leonard said…
I'm hearing that other districts support IB programs and it is time for the district to consistently fund this program.

That said, I understand the difficult position of the district. They are in the midst of planning for a $70M shortfall related to the levy cliff. The district just lost $12M due to a decrease in the levy inflator, and the district must pick-up $12M to support lower K-3 class size in high poverty schools.

The district must face a state that foists unfunded mandates upon them. I'm thinking about the 24 credit requirement, decrease suspension (requires additional support/ funding), creating a department to support AA etc. There are many worth-while initiatives. The board and the district must make all the puzzle pieces fit.

It appears, to me, that the district is attempting to get funding from another source; the funding which Jayapal refers....

It is sad to see that a school is having issues related to suicide. There is at least one other school that had an incident and our schools need support.

Fabulous that A4E is offering support, but the funding is a drop in the bucket. As well, why wouldn't the city provide funding? I do have a problem with a city that wants to help, but poaches a good principal away from a high need school.
Leonard said…
I'm REALLY thinking this article is premature. The district IS looking for funding.

Once again, the Alliance for Education is involved and I can't help to wonder if there is a political agenda behind this inflammatory story. After all, the mayor and his in the midst of holding his secret education committee meetings behind closed doors.

City Employee said…
Murray and his hand picked education committee is meeting behind closed doors- today.
Premature? The announcement was made and NOW the district says this? They never should have allowed the announcement if this was the case.

I have no doubt that making the district look bad is part of the plan for some people's agendas. Sometimes it's hard to tell incompetence from cunning.
Eric B said…
The district may be looking for funding, but they are saying they won't honor a previous commitment to fund $200K/year unless they find that grant. Everyone read that announcement as the district putting in more money. Period. Not if they get a grant. The district needs to honor that commitment.

Ramona, the board has a WSS-style funding sheet for IB in hand, prepared by people from the three IB schools.
Anonymous said…
Homeless kids, traumatized kids, kids with no family support, kids born to drug addicted parents, abused kids, abandoned kids - this is what City of Seattle should be helping SPS with. Not their secret little SPS takeover meetings, or their neoliberal levy policies that take funding away from the neediest kids.
Schools are a reflection of society - this city's society. With so many kids living in poverty, so many families torn apart, its no wonder we have so many kids crying out for help. But instead of coming up with lasting supports to help those children & those families, the mayor lobs stink bombs at SPS & yanks FSWs, the ed deformers carve out their new exclusive little charter enclaves of privileged kids, and kid behavior in public schools makes front page news. And of course, public schools are always to blame for the latter. Or they blame the parents and the schools. Never a thought to policies, society, etc.

Charlie Mas said…
When Cleveland STEM was created it had a budget that was in excess of the WSS amount that would normally be allocated to the school. The District committed to finding all kinds of private support for the program to make the budget work. The Superintendent herself chaired the development committee. They never raised a dime.

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