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

I have always thought of adults in a school as part of a three-legged stool.  Parents, teachers/staff and the principal.  And I thought each leg was mostly equal.  All these years later, I know I am wrong.  There is much, much more that can go right - and go wrong - depending on who is at the helm.

The example that follows is classic SPS.  The district has fairly well-paid Executive Directors who are supposed to watching over the schools in their region.  And yet, Stevens Elementary appears to have been going downhill for years with the last two years being particularly difficult.  If the district wants to be data-driven, they should have been tracking the school climate surveys - by both teachers and parents - and seen something happening.  The filing of complaints with OSPI last year over Special Education issues should have been a huge tip-off.

The principal, Kelley Archer, has been gone, off and on for the last 18 months.  There is an illness or injury involved which, of course, happens.  But, when those things happen, the district has to make sure a school runs well, not limps along.

Just to be clear, I don't know Stevens well but parents there reached out to me. The 5th grade field trip that is a tradition at Stevens is something of the straw that finally broke the camel's back.

I attended a special meeting called last week by parents - not the PTA, but parents - that included the district's new ombudsperson, Heidi Henderson-Lewis, who acted as the facilitator, Katherine Barr, the PTA co-president who acted as host and Sarah Pritchett, the Executive Director of the region. Ms Henderson-Lewis also stated that Ms. Pritchett was not her boss but that Superintendent Nyland is her direct boss.
The Meeting

It was also made clear that the meeting was not driven by a request from teachers.  

Who wasn't there?  Principal Archer.

Who was there representing the administration?  Assistant principal Colleen Stump, although she said nothing.  (For those who don't know Ms. Stump, she used to head the Highly Capable department.  When she left that job, I thought she left SPS.  She told me at the meeting that she used to be an assistant principal at both Daniel Bagley and Stevens but had been asked to come to Stevens full-time.  I believe she was the interim principal at least some of the time when Principal Archer was on leave. Ms. Stump has experience in Special Education issues so it is likely helpful that she is at Stevens but it is odd for an elementary to have both a principal and a full-time assistant principal.)

I would estimate the crowd at nearly 100 parents.  Stevens is in a historic building but the meeting was in the cafeteria (completed with a disco ball - good for them, I love parents with a sense of humor.)  Stevens has about 375 students. 

Ms. Pritchett was charged with explaining the "district's understanding of issues at Stevens including clarification of high-level issues."  The parents were to write their questions on notecards and she would try to answer them.  (That flew out the window as parents complained about which questions might be read and answered.  Ms. Pritchett bowed to this and answered questions straight from the audience.)

The high-level issues were:
  • administrative ineffectiveness
  • no family engagement in decision-making
  • lack of transparency in processes
  • inadequate and ineffective communication
  • unsafe school climate
That's a fairly sobering list of problems that would indicate unhappy parents as well as a possibly unhappy staff.

Why the meeting got called 

The issue that set this meeting in motion was the cancellation of the overnight field trip for 5th graders that is a 20-year tradition at Stevens.  You can imagine if your child saw all the 5th graders in his/her school go on a trip every year, that child might start dreaming of when she's a 5th grader.  All kids like rites of passage.

Now the explanation for the cancellation is that the forms were not submitted on-time.  The reason I have a hard time with this explanation came when parents asked why their checks had been cashed.  So SPS had many, many checks from Stevens' parents and none of the trip forms were attached?  And wouldn't SPS Accounting wonder what the money was for if there were no forms attached?  (The parents were told that if the trip did happen, the money would be used for that; otherwise, the district would be refunding their money.)

Ms. Pritchett was asked, "You didn't get a 59 page packet of info from Stevens for the trip?" Her answer was no.  Then how did the accounting office get the checks?  It's a mystery.

Because of behavior issues with a couple of 5th grade children, teachers were worried about the field trip and they had asked administration for more support on the trip.  That was turned down and the teachers said they did not want to make the trip.  (I did not hear anything about not allowing any student to make the trip; the teachers just wanted more oversight.)

So that left things up in the air.  The last thing I heard was that Principal Archer was trying to figure out a way but the trip is to be Friday so really cutting it close.

Ms. Henderson-Lewis summed up the situation this way - "there's a group of kids who feel targeted by other children as well as children who feel targeted by adults.

But the overall issue at Stevens seems to be is a slow deterioration of leadership.  Ms. Pritchett admitted that she had been hearing about issues as long as a year ago and that the "process" had started then.  Two different parents told me privately that they had been at the school for six years and the school had been slowly going downhill in terms of leadership and cohesive expectations about behavior by children.

How the meeting played out

Ms.  Henderson-Lewis said these are "sensitive and emotional" issues.  She made the statement that "sometimes you can't solve every problem but we can explain processes."  That word "processes" was over and over by both SPS reps.  

Ms. Pritchett then commenced her portion of the meeting and said she had talked to a number of staff and parents about concerns at Stevens.  She said there were leadership issues, a "breakdown in communications and procedures and operations on a day-to-day basis" and lack of clear expectations for students  and concern over the  "climate" at the school.   She said children are being "targeted" for specific things "be it race or other things."

Ms. Pritchett said there were issues around Special Education, math and Advanced Learning. 
(I have previously reported on the Special Education issues which took a lawyer and going to OSPI to get action.)   As well, Ms. Pritchett said that a special partnership program between UW and SPS for K-2 math had included Stevens as well even though Stevens doesn't qualify because of lack of enough F/RL students.  She stated this twice.

One key issue is that it appeared no one was documenting student behavior incidents that teachers or parents reported to administration.  One parent said his son had tried to intervene for another student on the playground and had gotten punched in the nose.  He claimed that the student that struck his child was never disciplined.  (The district has called a moratorium on elementary school suspensions so that may play into this particular scenario.)

What was odd is that Ms. Pritchett first said there were not common expectations being set by the principal on behavior and later said that "sometimes the administration is in a position to make decisions based on information and not all will agree."  That's true but if you aren't starting from a common understanding of expectations, it might be hard to understand whatever decisions do get made.

Ms. Pritchett said she was working with the principal on leadership and the principal was coming back to the school.  I believe Principal Archer is now back at Stevens.

The Field Trip

Ms. Pritchett was asked why teachers are afraid to talk about the field trip and she said, "That's a question that the teachers have to answer" which brought laughter from the crowd.  It did seem a little silly to say that given the whole situation and everyone on tenterhooks. 

There was actually not as much talk about the field trip itself.  It does seem that more parent chaperones would not work if there were not enough teacher chaperones.

Pritchett also rightly pointed out that the field trip forms had changed this year (likely because of the Garfield incidents.)  But parents wanted to understand what the concerns are for the field trip and she said, "concerns about being held accountable."  

Principal Issues and No Confidence

The meeting moved past the issue of the field trip - which really isn't the issue for these parents - to the lack of leadership and what is coming (or not.)

The parents were concerned about the budget and hiring for next year and Pritchett assured them that things "were on track."

But some parents spoke up and said they felt their children "had lost a whole year of school" because of the lack of leadership.  Ms. Pritchett said no, that teachers were in the classrooms teaching and dodged the meaning to the parent's statement.

Pritchett repeated talked about "processes" and "systems issues" but, of course, was never clear in what that meant.  (Naturally, the issue with the principal is a personnel issue and so she had to be careful but it seemed frustrating to parents.)

One parent boldly asked if the district, when it hires principals, has "some assumptions about competency and a system in place to support principals."  Pritchett said yes but "we are talking about someone's job and career."  You can imagine how well that kind of statement went over with a whole room of upset parents.

Several people spoke about a walk-out by students and a possible vote of no confidence for the principal.

Several parents said they knew parents in the neighborhood who gave up and now had their children in private school and that they were also considering it. Another parent asked what would happen if Stevens' enrollment numbers dropped.  Pritchett said that there could be issues with staffing if there were a big drop.

Parents almost universally said the issue was not the teachers and that they liked the teaching corps. 

One parent asked if Pritchett could ask Archer to resign.  That got applause.  Ms Pritchett said that was "not my role" and "there had to be a collection of evidence and data" and she could not say if Archer is resigning.  She said there is a procedure and it could take one to two years which brought a groan from the crowd. (I found this puzzling given her statement previously that she had been working on this issue for the last year.

Then, Pritchett talked to parents about how principals were chosen.  She said they create a "team" of parents and staff (and sometimes students) and interview candidates, always keeping in mind that the Superintendent has the final say.

She made it sound like there was a policy/procedure for principal selection in the district that does include parents and that just isn't true.  She slightly backpedaled and said "this would be my desire" but I think that statement was lost on parents.

One parent said that things had gotten worse at Stevens since Ms. Pritchett's involvement and that many parents wanted a "fast-track" evaluation.  There was applause for this.  Ms. Pritchett calmly stated that sometimes "things get worse before it gets better when you daylight things." 

Parents wanted to know if the principal could be moved (meaning was the contract specific to Stevens.)  The answer was that the contract is with SPS and the Superintendent could move any principal anywhere but "moving people around doesn't always help."  


Was there an airing of grievances? Sure but I'm not sure exactly what parents learned. 

I give all sides credit for a pretty calm discussion and all were very careful to make it about adults and no children were named.  (But I overheard two guys walking out, one says, "There should have been more fireworks" and the other guy nodded.)

Ms. Pritchett, for me, was less-than-effective.  She spoke very quickly and not always into the microphone.  She had to be asked, repeatedly, to repeat questions from the audience.   It made for a more difficult meeting.  She rambled and dodged questions and giving the same answer, over and over, made for frustration.

At one point, I looked out over the audience (I had taken a seat to the side of the cafeteria to leave the main seats for parents.)  I saw a lot of crossed arms and set jaws.  But I mostly saw people who looked tired and defeated.

But I see from the last school newsletter that the PTA is planning a carnival and the administration was talking about the BLT (building leadership team) and behavior on the playground so it would seem there is still positive energy there.  I was told by one parent that if the field trip doesn't happen, the parents will plan something else for the departing 5th grade class.

SPS has a solid school with committed parents and teachers (although some of that commitment by parents may be wavering.)  An apparent lack of leadership should not leave a school community twisting in the wind, waiting for the district to do something.


Greenwoody said…
This is troubling, and it suggests a more fundamental breakdown of leadership at SPS above and beyond Stevens and Pritchett. The central staff at the JSCEE are so focused on the latest ed reform fads that they are simply unable to effectively manage a school district. Their job is to focus on basic things like this, or on getting RBHS's IB program fully funded, or ensuring that an arts high school has a fine arts program. Larry Nyland should have been at this meeting and explained to parents what action he will take to address these problems.

There needs to be mass firings of senior leadership at the JSCEE, from Nyland on down to the Executive Directors. That may be our only hope of staving off a mayoral takeover. The senior leadership's constant refusal to listen to parents and teachers has become corrosive, and those staffers need to be fired immediately, for the sake of our kids. I hope the school board is paying attention and is ready to make some heads roll.
Parent at Stevens said…
Kelly Archer is still dodging the issue of why the teachers don't want to go on a trip that they have gone on for years. What exactly has transpired that not a single teacher wants to go. Kelly is completely useless and her boss Sara Pritcherd is also useless. Never has anyone from the administration apologized to my kid. I'm tired of people from the district putting themselves in front of the kids.
lowell parent said…
The big problem are the executive directors. What is their role exactly. They seem powerless. How did Sara Prichard become the boss of other principals. She was a terrible principal at Mclure middle school.
Charlie Mas said…
There is no principal selection process. Every case is handled individually at the whim of the superintendent.

There are no rules that prevent the district from replacing a principal at any time.

While I suppose Ms Pritchett is to be commended for attending the meeting, her performance there was not commendable. Inauthentic participation changes the meeting from effective leadership to CYA.

No one in the school or district administration has been honest with this community and no honesty appears to be forthcoming from either of those sources. Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be an interest in honesty from either of those sources.
I'm leaving said…
It often seems a disconnect between the administrators and those they serve. Kelly Archer often does not return parents emails. Her boss and everyone at the central office never does.
What does it take to get them involved. Even when we had the community meeting it felt like the two administrators were annoyed that they had to answer questions.
We are going to pull our kids out of Stevens and go to Lowell elementary. I'm tired of sending emails and talking about my kid being bullied by the same 5th graders and no one seems to care. How many times dies my kid come home crying and Kelly or the vice principal do nothing. They just say we will look into it and nothing happens. What does it take for the central office to do something about Kelly or any bad principal?
Eric B said…
Leaving, the only thing I've seen that's effective in changing the district's course quickly is an article in the Seattle Times. Maybe you can talk to Claudia Rowe, who has written most of the articles that show up in the Times about SPS?

Some policy changes can be made with long, slow efforts (see bell times), but those generally take years even with the support of a majority of the school board.
Hanky said…
Colleen Stump was director of Special Education about 15-18 years ago and was fired from the job. She then became a reading teacher and has been gradually working her way back up into administration. She has past history of administrative incompetence, but like most administrators in Seattle, knows how to kiss the right you-know-what. She manages to alienate staff wherever she goes. Anybody who would put her in charge again should be removed.
Charlie Mas said…
Here is a link to the District's Policy 3207, Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying. The policy doesn't say anything very meaningful. The nuts and bolts are in the Superintendent Procedure 3027SP.A. Here is where you will find the procedures that the school should have followed after a bullying incident.

I strongly encourage people to read the policy and the procedure, but the long and short of it is this: you need to make a formal complaint and make sure that an Incident Reporting Form is completed.
Anonymous said…
There is a major disconnect. And however mediocre to poor the leadership at Stevens is, this looks like a problem created by JSCEE.

The district says forms weren't filed.

But the district cashed checks written by parents.

Those two things are enough to make it clear that the district DID have the paperwork. Was there a problem with it? Did someone at JSCEE not deal with the paperwork in time? It would appear that given a choice between admitting error and making district students miss out on an event, administrators would prefer that students lose out.

There are numerous side problems that poor school leadership doesn't help. But if the district had the checks, they had the paperwork. It's kind of sad that JSCEE takes money intended for a student service/activity and refuses to provide the service.

-but it ain't the first time
Ain't (next time, just two-word moniker, please.) Here's the thing;it's not just JSCEE because first, parents were told it was the principal didn't get the forms in on time.

Now Sarah Pritchett said she never got any forms (but somehow those checks got into Accounting.)

Clearly, someone doesn't want this trip to happen. I'm thinking the teachers are taking their cue from that because if Archer herself has volunteered to go on the trip and the teachers are still not budging, there are other issues.

But, as you say, the kids are the ones who get hurt.

It feels like the district and principal are unable/unwilling to confront the behavior issues at school. Maybe they are waiting for the end of the school year and for the students in question to move onto middle school.
Anonymous said…
I was a parent at Stevens for 7 years, and I was on the building leadership team before Archer. let me tell you what really happened.

In 2007 Principal Bell retired and the community and staff together hired a young woman principal (I forgot her name, sorry) who was good. However two years later she was recruited by Highline School District and, since she lives in Kent, it just made sense for her to go to Highline. No hard feelings, I hate commuting too.

Kelley Archer is a former teacher who was doing a principal internship under the former principal (who left) so instead of creating a committee like they did after Bell, they just hired the intern! Did you hear that, the school district HIRED THE INTERN.

She dissolved the Building Leadership Team which I was on, and I didn't see any process for creating a new one with parent involvement.

My oldest stayed at Stevens until 5th grade even though he qualified for APP because we had a great experience there, but things started going downhill even before he left. However my second born had a different experience. He qualified for APP but the so called AOL program doesn't exist at Stevens, other things with other teachers happened that I won't go into, so we left.

Finally, mainstreaming the Emotional Behavioral special ed program is OK if the kids have proper supervision, but they don't. My son's 2nd grad teacher could physically not deal with the EB kids. She had her adult son "volunteering" there every day because she could not deal with the classroom on her own.

We moved my second born to Thurgood Marshall and it was hands down the best decision we could have made for him. The principal there is FANTASTIC because the community was part of the decision making process. My son's classroom at TM is a bit chaotic, one day they had a sub who could not handle their class. You know what happened? The kids were empowered to go to the principal and tell her, during the day, how abusive this sub was, and you know what? The principal listened. She came by the next day and apologized to the class and said she is taking steps to ban that sub from the school.

Night and day, if you ask me.

-Former Stevens Parent
Tired of trying said…
At first Kelly sent out a letter saying that the paperwork was submitted late, but the staff member responsible for overseeing the paperwork filled out the wrong paperwork. A few days later she sends out another email saying that they have a plan, but it's the teachers who don't want to go. Then they say no paperwork has been submitted at all and they will redo it.
At this point the kids have been protesting all week saying tell us the truth. They enmass protested with full media attention ( front page of times). Yet still they have not worked it out, either she or her boss are so incompetent or just don't care about our kids. It's demoralizing and sad.
The community, kids and staff are tired of not being told the truth and lied too over and over. We are tired of Kelly not filling out incident reports or disciplining kids. We are tired of Kelly not communicating or not being available. We are tired of declining test scores and stressed out teachers, parents and kids.
I don't know what the future of Stevens will be. At this point, I give up trying and can't wait till we can move on. It's just sad that my kid ends his elementary school in a sour note.
Anonymous said…
What is the school board doing about this, who is the board director for the area Stevens is located?

Anonymous said…
Part 1:

I realize this is off topic but I have to address the post by -Former Stevens Parent.

Wow, it is shocking how little respect subs get. Obviously, I don't know the exact situation with the sub that was in your son's class. However, I did want to provide a bit of perspective from a sub.

I taught for 8 years at a middle school. Took time off to be home with my kids. This is my 2nd year subbing.

Here is what a normal day subbing looks like:
-90% of sub plans say absolutely nothing about what the teacher's classroom management system is. It is very hard for kids when the sub has no idea what the teacher typically does when behavior issues come up.

If your son's classroom is "a bit chaotic" when their teacher is there I am going to assume that means the class is difficult to manage.

The best sub plans (sadly, this is rare) specify exactly what is done when students are disruptive, disrespectful, etc. Also, specifying in the sub plans which students often have issues and suggestions on what works best with those students is incredibly helpful for subs but is rarely included in sub plans.

My guess is that your teacher left none of this info for the sub.

Also, a few teachers teach their students the expectations when a sub is in the class and go over the consequences for misbehaving. It is very apparent which teachers do this and which don't.

Next, 75% of the time I am in a class the teacher does not leave nearly enough work for the kids. It is typical in an elementary school class for a teacher to have a 75 minute chunk of time and assigns the kids work that takes the majority of the class 15 minutes to complete. That leaves 50 minutes for the kids to usually "read silently." Most elementary school kids do not have the stamina to read for that long and the teacher would never expect students to do that when he/she is present. Thus, the kids get antsy and bad behavior starts to happen. This scenario happens again and again.

Many subs prepare for this by bringing things for the kids to do to keep them focused. Coloring sheets for younger kids, crossword puzzles, word searches, read aloud books, dot to dots etc. This helps a great deal in reducing behavior issues that arise from kids being bored from poor lesson plans.

Sometimes, when the classroon teacher finds out the sub brought extra activities, the teacher becomes upset because the sub did not "follow the lesson plan" which entailed the kids sitting and silent reading for 50 minutes. The sub is not asked back, and may be banned from the school.

The sub's perspective on the situation is never considered. Did the teacher explain the clasroom's management system? Did the teacher leave a seating chart (It is shocking how rarely this is done. It is no easy task to mange a class when the teacher knows none of the kids' names) Were the lesson plans thorough and clear, and did they provide enough work to keep the kids engaged and busy for the entire school day?

It is absolutely ridiculous how little respect subs receive in this district. Subs are banned from classrooms and schools without ever asking the sub to explain their rational for what was done.

As I said earlier I taught full time for 8 years and consider myself to be competent, compassionate and professional at all times.

The "blame the sub for everything" attitude I see at many of the schools I sub at is reprehensible.
This will be the last year I sub as the district I taught in hired me back for next fall. The two years I spent subbing have been the most isolating and depressing years of my professional career.

Anonymous said…
I realize this is off topic but I have to address the post by -Former Stevens Parent.
-Part 2

Instead of always bashing subs, who in most cases are doing the best they can with the poor lesson plans they were left, how about thanking them for coming and telling them they are appreciated?

I hope everyone who has something negative to say about a "problem sub" is willing to consider the sub's perspective and that perhaps they did they best they could with inadequate lesson plans, no classroom management information, and no student accountability from parents, teachers or administrators for inappropriate behavior.

There is no Substitute Appreciation Week for substitutes but that is something I will be advocating for at my school next year.

-Substitute Teacher
Anonymous said…
Could we start a new thread on the issues -Substitute Teacher brought up?
-Another Sub
Anonymous said…
Yes, subs are banned for bringing filler work for kids that they use when the teacher has not left enough work to keep the kids engaged and to prevent behavior problems.
However, when no lesson plans are provided for subs (happens sometimes when a teacher calls in sick at the last minute and doesn't have emergency sub plans available) then it is fine and encouraged for the subs to do whatever they can to get through the day.
-Another Sub
Anonymous said…
Thank you sub and sub and sub again.

I have been with this district off and on for decades.. I was a full time Teacher and saw how badly the district treats Teachers so I subbed on the odd occasion. I have now done it full time for the last decade thanks to the recession and old broads are not valuable in the tech world or anywhere apparently.

So as I wait to die I am treated like people wish that was sooner vs later. The students are half the problem as they learn early on that subs are disposable human beings with no other purpose than to trash, literally and figuratively.

The district has no use for any actually competent Subs, I learned that early on. We are to babysit. If you have the audacity to Teach you are banned from a building without ever speaking to anyone about why.

The lack of due process if done to a student would cause outrage. And after years of experiencing what the Stevens mother described led me to quit going to elementary schools, as they are the worst perpetrators if a sub does not act as if all the kids are special snowflakes who are never disruptive, just perfect students every day with everyone but "you" and "you" are the one who suddenly led little precious to turn odd!

I have millions of stories, some mine, some by others about every school in this district and the way we are maligned, ignored and bullied by the STAFF. And the kids learn it from them. Apple meet the tree of misbehavior.

I am finally leaving as those who know I teach do.. they are the students and they know me by name and face and speak to me.. it is for them I have appreciation and it is for them I do the job still but as for the district..

-Exhausted Sub
Erik Tanen said…
My son did not want to go to school today because this was the day that he was suppose to go to camp. He felt that no one cares about the kids when they can be lied too again and again. He and a lot of other 5th graders feel as if they are being penalized somehow.
Tired of being mad, now I'm just sad.
Rising 6th said…
Erik Tanen,

I am so sorry for your kid and the others at Stevens. My child got to go on the 5th grade trip to Islandwood and everyone deserves the 5th grade trip. My heart aches over this situation. Grown-ups leaving a permanent, negative impact on these young kids is unacceptable. We will probably never know the real reason, but SPS owed it to these kids to make the trip work under whatever circumstances were necessary. The saddest part now is even if they get to go, the trip won't be the same for the kids. Half the fun is the excitement leading up to the event. But, if they get to go, all the grown-ups save face.

Condolences...I wish I could fix this for the kids.
Charlie Mas said…
Cat asked "What is the school board doing about this, who is the board director for the area Stevens is located?"

This is precisely the sort of thing that the School Board should not meddle with. The most the school board can or should do would be to speak to the superintendent and impress on him the expectation that he and his staff will be honest, transparent, and forthright in their communications with the public. They could also ask how his "Fly to the Ball" protocol and other customer service procedures applied to this issue.

The Board should NOT step into this mess and try to solve it. That is completely outside the Board's proper role.
Parent at Stevens said…
I agree with you Charlie that the school board is an advisor board only, but Stephan Blandford should contact us to hear our concerns. He is elected by us after all and I know that he knows about the situation.If in the minimum to show that someone cares about our children even though it appears that District employees are more concerned about their Careers.
Eric B said…
I agree that the School Board should stay the heck out of the situation in terms of finding a solution. However, I think it is entirely reasonable for a director to call up the supe and tell him that there is a serious problem here and he needs to fix it. It would also be entirely reasonable to ask for a timeline and a lessons learned after the crisis is past. Oh, and to bring up issues of leadership or lack thereof in performance reviews.
It is absolutely the school board's job to step in here. They don't need to devise the solution themselves and impose it from above, but as the elected representatives of the district, they do have an obligation to help resolve an issue when it is becoming clear that SPS staff have no interest in doing so. The board's proper role is to conduct effective oversight of the district, and this is certainly a situation where that applies.
Ann D said…
I have heard that Archer was being trained by Pritchett going back to 2012. To say she just started last year is disingenuous.

What recourse is there if the district administration has been alerted to this issue for YEARS (yes I did) and the school has a high attrition rate as the result of its poor leadership and they just ignore everything? A state lawsuit over SPED services evidently isn't enough to cause HR daylighting. What then?
Anonymous said…
Really, you think the board should not be concerned with the following issues.

1. The district cashed checks written by parents for camp, but did not deliver.
2. There have been 15 OSPI special education complaints against Stevens.
3. There is a pending laws suit over the failure to provide special educational services at Stevens.
4. There is a claim of discrimination over the camp issue in relationship to special needs students which could result in another large payout.

So, board members can simply do the usual and stick there heads in the sand while a large 6 figure cash settlement is paid out to several families or step up and provide a little direction.

I thought the new board wanted to end all the law suits ?

GarfieldMom said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Garfield Mom (and everyone), please do not write statements - even if you believe you know them to be true - that are defamatory to SPS staff. You may write a statement if you use the word "allegedly" or modifiers like "I believe."
Anonymous said…
I think @4:56 makes a good point though. I, for one, will be interested to see the trial's transcript. After all, it is important for teachers and parents to appreciate the "pattern of behavior" among some of the more egregious SPS administrators. Sarah Pritchett has, it appears to me, consistently put students, teachers and what is best for the district, last, and career advancement first. Not the best use for her $162,000 salary. As a parent of a kid who has been bullied by SPS administrative personnel - I don't have much sympathy for them.

-SPS Parent
Just saying said…
How is it that someone paid $120,000 per year be so incompetent. You cannot tell me that there is a shortage of qualified candidates.
Why in God's name did they appoint an intern to do this job. Wouldn't it have been more prudent to have her be a vice principal first and get some experience. This is a direct result of an inexperienced person doing a job that was way above their ability.
GarfieldMom said…
I don't BELIEVE it to be true, Melissa, it IS true. The judge called her on it in open court during the hearing.

Sarah Pritchett indeed has a pattern of behavior that should worry anyone with kids in any of the schools under her direction.
Charlie Mas said…
The Board should stay out of management and administration. This is a management and administration issue.

The Board should focus on policy. What is the policy issue here? Is there a policy fix to this? If so, then what? Should the Board direct the superintendent to draft a procedure for appointing and removing principals?
Anonymous said…
Wow. Hanky and the endless whiners. Colleen Stump should be reviled because Maria Goodloe-Johnson fired her? Are you kidding? That is a ridiculous statement. You clearly don't know how to "kiss the you-know-what" either - or even how to find it with both hands!

Dr Stump was the part time special ed manager 9 years ago, and was the most qualified one in a decade. There have been about 8 more after her - all truly incompetent and unable or unwilling to do the work. Now we have Wyeth Jessee - and we can only hope that he soon declares victory and quits too! At least she actually taught special education, had a PhD in it, and didn't mind teaching after she was "fired" by her majesty. Now, she's worked her way up to vice Principal. So what? Seems reasonable to me. No, VP is not an unusual position in an elementary.

Seems that Stevens people can't get their head around basic math. Teachers and staff have to WANT to give you the extra unicorns that you think you're entitled to. Schools that provide extra - have staff buy-in. Instead, staff thought the unicorn-bank downtown would provide the "extra support", to support their own students. Absurd. More likely, they knew that the way to cancel the whole thing was to make their participation contingent upon the "extra support" which would of course never come. Because - you simply aren't getting that. This is a school level thing. If the school can't do it, there's nothing "downtown" can do to save it. Really. What did people think Pritchett would do? Fire the principal? For what? Having entitled parents enrolled in her school. That's a tall order - and it ain't gonna happen.


krisfitz said…
"I'm Leaving" - please don't transfer to Lowell without talking to involved parents there. We have a very similarly ineffective interim principal whose lack of leadership has caused the school to run very ragged. There was a safety investigation due to a number of serious incidents, parent emails are rarely answered (and meetings often cancelled at the last minute), teachers are almost uniformly fed up with her, there's no ALO program despite being a designated Spectrum school (and despite parent and PTA offers of help), and families are looking at leaving for these reasons. The teachers and kids/community there are fantastic, but please don't move thinking that you'll find better leadership or a better-run school - it sounds pretty much the same. We're changing schools ourselves.
Parent at Stevens said…
You must be smoking something I would love to get my hands on.
There is absolutely a failure in how Sps manages special ed, but to praise Dr Stump is laughable. She did not even last six months. She was beyond incompetent. She is worse than Kelly Archer, she has zero understanding of what it takes to be a principal that it's laughable.
In regards to Kelly Archer, you are either living under a rock, don't read the Seattle times or this blog indepth. This is not about the failure to turn in paperwork that is turned in every year for 21 years. It's about Kelly being under constant investigation for IEP violations, it's about Kelly not writing up incident reports when children are harmed by teachers, it's about Kelly not submitting paperwork to get a head teacher that was funded by the pta, it's about Kelly not having a discipline plan, it's about Kelly not communicating, being vindictive, lying to parents and children. It goes on and on.
Easy to comment when you have never been to the school or probably don't have kids anymore.
Erik Tanen said…
Stevens community can't get our heads around basic math? Huh, what are you talking about. Our 5th graders are doing 7th grade story problems and tend to be in the advanced math when they go on to Washington. We are in the top percentile in math in the district. If your going to throw insults at our teachers than find something that makes sense.
And by the way I like my unicorns with rainbows
Anonymous said…
To Anonymous re: "I realize this is off topic but I have to address the post by -Former Stevens Parent"

Thank you, thank you. You nailed it all.
I wish I knew how to contact you so we could share experiences over coffee.
Charlie Mas said…
So there we have it. The school and the district have done such a great job of telling false stories about why there is no 5th grade camp this year that people outside of Stevens don't know what to think.
Was the paperwork sent in late? Was it incomplete? Was no paperwork sent in at all? Does this have absolutely nothing to do with paperwork?
If it has nothing to do with paperwork, then who even introduced the red herring about paperwork into the conversation?
If it has nothing to do with paperwork, then what is it about? Is it because the teachers refuse to chaperone? That's odd, isn't it? The teachers at Stevens have been doing this trip for 20 years and now, all of a sudden, they decide they don't want to do it any more? What's that about? Is it because some students were excluded? Is it because some students were not excluded? Is it because the teachers needed extra support and the school refused to provide it? Why would the school refuse to provide it if the extra support was needed? Was the extra support needed?

At the core, the first problem here is the dishonesty and lack of transparency. Whatever is going on, it's clear that the school and the district administration are not being honest about what is going on. That's the first fix needed. We have no hope of fixing anything else if we can't fix that. Right now the two people who are refusing to be honest and transparent are the principal and the executive director. Either they start speaking truth to the community or they need to find other work.

Let's start there.
Stevens parent said…
Even our kids picked up on this when all of them went on strike and picketed the school. They kept asking for the truth knowing it could not be about paperwork.
Two weeks earlier Dr Stump sent out a survey asking the parents if they wanted to have camp and did we have any concerns. We as a collective body went " What are you talking about". Now in hindsite it's obvious that something was up. Then they come up with the paperwork issue two weeks later. Was the paperwork submitted at that time or not. Why would you ask about camp if the paperwork was not submitted. Why keep collecting money, why tell us paperwork was submitted but it was wrong. Nothing makes sense.
Kelly says that the paperwork was submitted, but incorrectly filled out and then Sara says nothing was submitted. At this point we don't believe anything Coleen,Kelly or Sara says.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for Kelly constantly missing deadlines for paperwork that relate to teacher hiring, incident reports and budgets. From my understanding we have a carnival coming up in a few weeks and the paperwork for this event has never been submitted.
Why is Sara Pritcherd defending her. My only guess is she is part of the lies that were initially about the camp and now can't stop herself. More importantly why has Kelly been allowed to operate for years without being replaced.
It's because Sara Pritcherd is the ring leader behind all of this, she is hated by teachers in most of the schools. Kelly is just one of many bad principals under Sara Pritcherd. It's not just Kelly and Coleen that need to go, but Sara needs to be shown the door ASAP.
Reader, I said that it is unusual to have a full-time assistant principal at a school. Dr. Stump herself explained to me how previously she had been splitting her time between Bagley and Stevens.

And it's Sarah Pritchett - please spell it correctly.
Charlie Mas said…
And there we have it.

So here's the next question: If it is so painfully clear that neither the principal, the assistant principal, nor the executive director of schools has been honest with the community, then who can intervene and with what authority?

The Ombudsman has already been engaged with no result. The Ombudsman could not extract a straight story from this mess.

The obvious answer is the Director of Schools, who is the Executive Director's boss. Then the Superintendent.

As citizens, we want to go to the Board because they are the only people in the whole district who are actually accountable to the public. But the Board can only intervene on policy issues. Is this a policy issue?

There is a policy on communication with the public, policy 4010, but while this policy requires the staff to be courteous, it doesn't actually require them to be honest. A member of the Board might want to suggest that honest be added to the policy. Likewise, the Family Engagement policy, 4129, doesn't mention honesty. Never mind the Ethics policy; it's strictly about conflicts of interest in contracting. You might hope that there would be something in policy 5006, Unprofessional Conduct of Staff that would apply here. This policy, and the WAC it parallels, is what did in Carol Burton. Classified staff can be in violation of this policy for "Providing false information to the District (i.e., timesheets, application materials, formal investigations);", but there is no similar violation for certificated staff. Apparently it isn't unprofessional for them to do that. Certificated staff are required to give honest answers when investigated by the OSPI or law enforcement, but not when investigated by the district or the Ombudsman. Again, there appears to be some room for improvement in this policy.

So, odd as it might seem, there is no policy that requires the staff to be honest in their communications with the public. Boy, that sure does explain a lot, doesn't it? In the absence of any such policy, this is not a policy issue and the Board has no role in it.

The Board can include the superintendent's performance in this case as part of their judgement of his performance, but that's about it.
skull said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie, while I understand where you're coming from here, it seems to me that separating policy and management/admin functions has failed this district. It's clear to me that if management and administrative functions are left solely to the Superintendent and his or her staff, they will make poor decisions because they are not accountable.

An effective board is one that conducts rigorous oversight, and in the case of SPS, the board needs to step in and get involved in these kinds of management and administrative matters. Perhaps at some later date we can revisit this division of powers, once the anti-teacher and anti-parent culture at the JSCEE has been rooted out and new staff have been brought on who are committed to a responsive, transparent, and effective management process. But for now, the board needs to take a much more active and direct role in getting these kinds of problems resolved. Because if the board doesn't step in, these problems will never be resolved.
Anonymous said…
Skull. You are simply wrong. Colleen Stump was a "manager", in charge of special-ed, ELL, and Advanced learning. She held the position in the days before there were "directors". In my parlance - that's "part time special ed management" - because it was on part of what she did.

Stump had Sara Woolverton working for her, who oversaw special ed. Parents managed to drive Woolverton out of town, with the help of Stump. That's the history. 2007. Read all about it. MGJ - got rid of Stump, because she wanted to find an ed reformer, or somebody with her values (whatever they were, we never could know that). MGJ posted the job of "director of special ed" for 60 grand. The position was offered at less than the consulting teacher's salary. There were no takers. Not one. After a long while with nobody, an interim Becky Clifford and some retired geezer named "Fred Row" were appointed, then we got the Nathan Hale Principal - Marni Campbell as director of special ed (or was it executive director?). Her experience in special education was that she had some special ed kids in her building. She couldn't hack the parents. She was used to being worshipped as a principal - and special ed directors are never worshipped. It didn't help that she basically tried to dismantle special ed in the district. And then there were many more. Of the long sorry list - only Stump was qualified - at least, by a few measures.

Yep. Lots of problems at Stevens. Yep. Lots of IEP violations. What's new? But the things that stand out - 1) camp is some sort of entitlement (wrong, it's a nicety that *staff* must buy into and they didn't buy into it) 2) enrichment is for everyone and Stevens thought they could punish their way out of the inclusion part. (wrong, you can't exclude students. Period. Especially in protected classes. Even Pritchett knows this - so, I think people should take note.) 3. Teachers should get extra support - oh, just because camp is hard, and "those" kids are hard. (wrong. It doesn't matter if they asked for extra. Central office doesn't give you extra because you've got students with challenges. Every school has challenges and you get what you get. WSS accounts for that.)

Basically - the problems at Stevens should be fixed at Stevens. Sure. Everybody knows the paperwork thing is a ruse. But what would you have the district say? Get into a long discussion about why the teachers refused to serve students with "behavioral" challenges? Seriously. That would target those students at the school, and most people would want to avoid that discussion - because that is where the "honest" discussion would go.

Reader, the teachers obviously did buy into the trip - it had been a tradition for 20 years.

Again, I never heard a single teacher or parent say they didn't want any student to attend; they wanted help to manage all the students. If the teachers know that some students have behavior challenges, they can ask. Sure, the district can say no to that help and then the teachers say, "We can't handle it."

Teachers are not refusing to serve any child; they need the resources and leadership to do that.
mirmac1 said…
Reader is correct on all points. SPS apparently got the memo that they cannot exclude students with disabilities on field trips because they refuse to provide the supports and accommodations necessary. Period. In the past, parents would be told that Johnny can't go on the trip unless Mommy went too. This is a civil rights violation.

Another approach was to force IAs to go without additional pay. Teachers don't like to work for free. Neither do IAs. Staff buy-in would include IAs as well.

The WSS allocates funds for the building staff to be present during the usual school hours. If additional hours are required then they should be paid.

What I want to know is what has the Stevens BLT done with the reimbursements for the many days they failed to fill and staff the SpEd classrooms? Those funds should go towards providing those children a FAPE (which includes things like extracurricular activities and field trips).
Anonymous said…
Mellissa, sorry. I call bs on that. When you say you need support above and beyond what your school has been allocated in order to serve all of your students, you are refusing go serve all students. The fact that Stevens staff won't admit it, is irrelevant, and kinda obvious. Sure you can ask for a pony, but there isn't going to be one, nor should there be one. Any truly everyone knows this. Seems the school has a history of exclusion. Take care of your own school. It is already more or less equitably funded under wss. The central office can't step in every time this happens. Stevens has many ias and many other teachers. Any of them could have been convinced to go, except they didn't buy in. That's what buy in means.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, a tradition of exclusion is not buy in to do all the work. It's buy in to do some of the work. That's not what's required. Better leadership may have gotten more staff to volunteer. So might a lot of things.

Parent at Stevens said…
Reader and Miramar

It's truly amazing that people who don't go to Stevens or know exactly what's happening give there opinions,but I guess nothing is new.

1.No student with disability was ever going to be excluded. What history of exclusion( that's almost laughable)?

2. No district funds are used for any of the camps to camp Orkilla or Island wood. It is funded completely by parents or PTA's. Anyone who has had a student go on one of these trips would know that. In fact parents on our own came up with an additional $1,500 so all students could go.
3.On many occasions, we offered to fund additional staff if that was necessary. This was never taken up by Coleen. We offered double the number of chaperones if that was necessary. Coleen never mentioned any of this to the staff.

4. The staff were ready to do the trip three weeks before the trip. The fact that the staff and the district won't talk about this point is concerning.

5. This is just the tip of the iceberg about incompetence by both Kelly Archer and Dr. Stump. Kelly was out sick for a few months, so the camp fiasco is all Coleens fault. She is a terrible leader and not competent paper pusher.If you both are ok with administrators lying to parents,staff and children than I have nothing else to say.

Anonymous said…
It's isn't a unique Stevens problem. Other schools did this too in the past. In order for some kids to participate, they need their parent/guardian to go on the extended trip when a child has significant health/behavioral issue. It isn't right, but as a chaperone on these trips, that's what I saw. We had two latch key cousins missed the 5th grade camp because they didn't have a ride in early enough to make the bus. A parent offered to drive them to the camp (ferry ride and all), but school said no because of liability. Also, if it's a PTA sponsored FT and approved by the school, that means PTA covers the fee even if parents can't pay (and it supposed to be done confidentially- again depends on school and the PTA).

Reader, I don't understand. What "tradition of exclusion" are you talking about? I didn't one word about that from anyone at Stevens.
Anonymous said…
I see this fiasco a result of an effort to equalize opportunity for children who in the past had more burdens to bear in order to participate. The laws may say one thing, but what really happens is another. We have turbulence beneath still water. No one should be surprised. Reconciling laws, tradition, and what was done in the past with what is now expected is gonna be messy,

Give me a break said…
Are you saying that latchkey kids have health/ behavioral issues. Why should that matter because some parent woke up late?
Why shouldn't some kid who is rude to the teachers or bullies other kids be required to be accompanied by their parent.In the Stevens case, kids get three to five chances of misbehaving before they have to be accompanied by their parent.
We are too permissible of kids bad behavior and we need to hold them accountable or they will not have a good future..
If a child is not willing to behave like everyone and wants to go then their parent needs to come and control them. It is not the teachers responsibility to care for your kids past the end of the day.
Of course no child who is in special ed was being excluded and accommodations were made for them.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I will remind readers that we don't speak of children in specific here (except in legal cases and even then, no names.) Parent, that last comment was way too specific so please, if you want to comment, you need to speak more generally.
Anonymous said…
Stealing special ed money, is something Stevens has already done. That is excluding students from an appropriate education. If they're willing to do that, then they probably have done lots of exclusion. If the pta is willing to fund extra staff, but staff still won't bite. That's lack of adequate buy-in for the trip. Plain and simple. No way the district is just gonna do that for you, nor could they.

Reader, are you just trying to get deleted? "Stealing" is a big word and I have stated, over and over, for claims like that I would like to see (allegedly or "it's my belief/opinion.") Keep that in mind for future comments.
Anonymous said…
Ok. How about misappropriation? When you place special ed IAs in rooms that don't have the students who need the most service, and for whom the IAs are assigned to the school to service, some call it misappropriation, others call it stealing. This has nothing to do with belief or opinion. The school district had to pay serious dollars for failure to provide FAPE despite being funded for it. Repeatedly. Call it what you will.

Anonymous said…
For those of you unaware,

OSPI has already ruled Stevens did not provide SPED services. We know SPS was allocated SPED funding, in the form of both federal and state special educational funding and the amount was based on the special educational roster of SPS inducing the Stevens students.

SPS allocated around $21,000 per SPED student to Stevens, but Stevens did not provide SDI. Call it what you want, but it's a shame no one in SPED has been fired over this.

Add in the fact that administrators at Stevens seemed to beg JSCEE staff for help, but also where seeking CYA instructions from SPS legal.(letter I've seen published on the web)

Now finally, this whole sorted incident occurred and OSPI elevated the SPS status from level 4 to level 3 or better. Then proceeded to submit false compliance data.

mirmac1 said…
Hmmmm, would love to chat more with you on that last point, Cat.
mirmac1 said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
I feel pretty confident that there is a mixture of messy things going on at Stevens, but as a teacher who has taken kids to camp 20-some times, and is in the process of the final prep for this year's a few notes:
-The district did make major changes in paperwork requirement for all field trips this year, including overnight trips. This appeared to be related to the Garfield incident but applies of course to all of us right down to kindergarten. These changes came midyear and were challenging to complete in the timeline that was left; we even had to redo paperwork for trips already planned when the paperwork changed. This was driven by the legal department.
-It can be really problematic when kids have significant behavioral or developmental challenges because camp involves a huge donation of time on the part of staff. You cannot require the assistants who typically support kids during the school day to attend camp. Sometimes you are lucky enough to have I.A.s willing to go, but often not. If the teaching staff takes this on, then you have less time to spend dealing with the needs of the larger group. I've advocated for parent help with camp in those cases because it's hard to figure out how else to do it. Administrative support in paying assistants or providing sub time to release another staff member or two could be critical in these cases. And remember, kids are supervised at night by parent volunteers, so a certainly level of self-control is necessary from kids for parents to be able to manage their groups.
-Dietary concerns are another place I've sought parent help - it is difficult to spend time cooking special allergen free meals when you are responsible for the larger group (and I've had to do this.)
-Re the checks, as far as I know you would not have to have paperwork filed to deposit funds in an ASB account. I might be wrong, but I'm not sure those things are tied. If the funds were coded to the right budget line I don't imagine accounting cares if the other paperwork is filed with the office.
-An SPS teacher
Thanks for that update, SPS Teacher.
mirmac1 said…
Cat, please send me a link to that letter. Thank you!
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