Seattle Schools This Week

Again, as the district continues with high school graduation ceremonies this week, congratulations to all the seniors making that walk and their proud parents.
Tuesday, June 21st
Board Audit&Finance committee meeting, 4:30-4:45 pm JSCEE. Agenda

It's hard to discern what items in the agenda are of particular interest, given the neutral listings.  Unfortunately, reading the internal audit documents there are two items of note.  (See review of the issues after the listing of weekly meetings/events.)

Wednesday, June 22nd
Community Meeting with Director Geary from 4-6 pm at the Northeast Library.

Thursday, June 23rd
Meeting on building modifications for Lincoln High at that site from 6:30-8:00 pm.  Again, this is about the physical building and not what offerings will be at the school nor boundaries.  Director Burke has said he will be attending.

Public hearing on the 2016-2017 budget, 4:30-6:15 pm, JSCEE.
Now usually, it is me, Chris Jackins (another watchdog), maybe Sped PTA president, Cecilia McCormick and a couple of other people.  I sure wish people would come this time because I think the staff and the Board need to hear what parents want to see happen with this budget AND the extra $11M they somehow found.
Those wishing to speak about the FY 2016-2017 Recommended Budgets may sign up at the public hearing to present oral testimony. Testimony will be taken on a first-come, first serve basis according to the sign-up sheet at the public hearing. Speakers will be given a maximum of three (3) minutes to speak. 
Now you can see that's 15 whole minutes of testimony.  If more people show up, I'm sure they will extend it.  Immediately after the public hearing is a Work Session on Transportation.

But what should have come first to get the most input - a public hearing on the budgets or a work session?  The order should be reversed to allow the most number of public comments.  You aren't going to get them at 4:30 rather than if the hearing started at 6:00 pm.

Friday, June 24th
Last day of the school year.
Audit Findings

One is the Genesee Hill project which is now - the the district's own hand - running over budget.
The current project budget is $41 million. Construction began in September 2014 and substantial completion is expected in June 2016.

An informal value engineering study performed on the schematic design of Genesee Hill Elementary School revealed the project was over budget. The original design was two separate two-story buildings, one on the upper level of the site and one on the lower level, with bridges connecting the two buildings. The district did not accept enough of the proposed cost reductions from the study to bring the bridge scheme within budget.

Rather risk delaying the completion of construction documents, the district elected to accelerate the redesign efforts and maintain the schedule for bidding the project. Acceleration cost the district approximately $414,000.

In August 2013, the district modified the architect’s contract, increasing the MACC by $1.8 million and raising the architect’s fees by $114,558. The reason for increasing the MACC was that escalation had not been included in the MACC in the original contract, which was executed in February 2013.

Also of note to all parents:

In general, the role and responsibilities of SDAT appear to be well defined by the district. However, we recommend the district emphasize to stakeholders that project budgets are not negotiable. Although SDAT plays an important role in selecting a conceptual design option, the district is the custodian of BEX funds and has sole authority to make final design and budgetary decisions.
As well, personal services contracts on this project were not all executed well with one attorney contracted for $450 an hour but receiving $475 per hour.
We advised Accounting that the district had paid the wrong hourly rate and, more importantly, that expired contracts generally should not be modified. We emphasized that adequate monitoring by staff is necessary to prevent these problems. Despite our concerns, the initiating department issued two additional modifications, one to increase the value of the contract to pay invoices, another to retroactively revise the hourly rate to $475. While it is not unusual to pay consultants after contract expiration for work performed during the contract term, reviving an expired contract can create unnecessary risks for the district.
In addition, Internal Audit points out other issue for not only personal services contracts but procurement,  RFP and other accounting issues.  I'm not understanding how this could be happening since the Silas Potter incident cast a bright light on many of those issues.  There does not appear to be anything illegal in nature but that we keep seeing these kinds of lapses is troubling especially when we are paying such high salaries for those at the top.

Sadly, there is also an audit for Lowell Elementary.  There appears to be some mishandling of money and some missing field trip dollars. This falls under the responsibilities of the principal.  Info on this audit starts on page 32.

There are a number of issues including:
During a surprise cash count on January 25, 2016, we identified $12,986.90 in the school’s safe that had not been deposited with the District’s bank account. The funds identified in the safe dated back to the 2012/2013 school year, and consisted primarily of student field-trip payments. Even though the school routinely collects funds from students to cover the cost of fieldtrips, the school had not deposited any of the fieldtrip funds with the bank since the 2011/2012 school year. The District’s Accounting Department retrieved the funds discovered during the cash count and deposited them in the District’s bank account.
We were unable to identify any deposits associated with the December 2014 IslandWood Camp, nor were able to locate any funds associated with the 2014 IslandWood Camp during our surprise cash counts at the school. Payments from student families were collected by the two teachers that taught fifth grade students during the 2014/2015 school year. The teachers would then give the funds to the school’s Administrative Secretary in the main office. The Administrative Secretary confirmed that the teachers turned the IslandWood Camp fees into the main office, and that the Administrative Secretary recalls receiving the funds from the teachers. Neither of the fifth grade teachers from the 2014/2015 school year are still employed by Seattle Public Schools, nor is the 2014/2015 school principal.

Since the 2012/2013 school year, the Administrative Secretary has been solely responsible for all funds received by the main office. The Administrative Secretary is also the only person who knew the combination to the school’s safe. We interviewed several school staff members, including the Administrative Secretary, who all confirmed that the Administrative Secretary was the only one to handle funds once they were turned into the main office. Once informed of these issues, District management placed the Administrative Secretary on administrative leave while the Office of Internal Audit investigated the missing funds.
 What is also sad is that the Internal Audit reveals that Lowell was not following district policy on field trips.  What is it going to take for schools to take these policies seriously?


Anonymous said…
Gee - I bet this never happens...(bold mine)

Under the current procedures, it is possible for a single vendor to have multiple contracts to provide similar services to different departments or schools. Even though each individual contract may be below the threshold requiring Board approval, the total amount of contracts awarded to the vendor may be significantly higher.

As a result, it is possible for a single contractor to receive significant District contracts without receiving Board approval.

The District’s procedures do not identify when payments to a single vendor require Board approval. This lack of guidance increases the risk that District staff will intentionally split a larger contract into multiple smaller contracts in order to avoid having to obtain Board approval. It also increases the risk that the District will show favoritism to one vendor, and that the District will not receive the best value for the services it seeks.

Anonymous said…
$13,000 of undeposited funds, just sitting in the school safe, for years?? How does that happen? Just another year in SPS.

-counting down
Charlie Mas said…
Schools have safes?
Anonymous said…
Updated enrollment projections were announced on Friday afternoon. Huge cuts for some schools, increases in FTE for others. This seems VERY late to announce displacements. Chief Sealth is losing 3.0. That type of cut is deadly to schools trying to build and sustain programs.


Adams Elem (1.0)
Arbor Heights Elem 1.0
B.F. Day Elem (1.0)
Cascadia Elem (1.0)
Dunlap Elem (1.0) (0.5)
Emerson Elem (1.0)
Franz Coe Elem (1.0)
Green Lake Elem 2.0 0.5
Greenwood Elem (1.0)
John Hay Elem (1.0)
Lafayette 1.0
Lowell Elem (1.0)
Olympic View Elem 1.0 0.5
Sacajawea Elem 1.0
Sand Point Elem (1.0)
Schmitz Park Elem 1.0
Van Asselt Elem (2.0)
Viewlands Elem (1.0)
Wedgwood Elem 1.0 0.5
West Seattle Elem (1.0)
Wing Luke Elem (1.0)

K-8 SCHOOLS Teacher
Broadview-Thomson K-8 1.0 0.5
Catherine Blaine K-8 1.5
Licton Springs K-8 (1.0)

Denny MS (0.4) n/a
Eckstein MS (0.6) n/a
Hamilton Intl. MS 0.8 n/a
Jane Addams MS 1.4 n/a
Madison MS 1.2 n/a
McClure MS 0.8 n/a
Mercer MS 2.4 n/a
Washington MS 0.6 n/a

Ballard HS 2.0 n/a
Chief Sealth HS (3.0) n/a
Garfield HS (0.8) n/a
Ingraham HS 2.0 n/a
Nathan Hale HS (1.6) n/a
Rainier Beach HS (0.8) n/a
West Seattle HS 2.4 n/a
Anonymous said…

Do you know if the change in FTE you list is a difference from the current level of staffing at a school, or the difference from the earlier Enrollment Projection report for 2016-2017 that came out after Open Enrollment?

Also, is this report posted on the SPS website anywhere?

Thank you,
Anonymous said…
Re: the projections, how could SPS have been so off re: middle school? Only two schools are losing, for a total of only 1.0 FTE between them. Six of the other schools are gaining staff, a total of 7.2 FTES. Across all the middle schools, that's 6.2 FTEs more needed than originally projected. While I understand there can be some variation from school to school, why didn't SPS have decent idea long ago of how many kids would be in middle school? It doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said…

Anonymous said…
It looks like they are taking net 11 teachers away at the elementary level?! 15 schools losing a teacher, and 4 gaining. Are there really 330 fewer students at the elementary level this year than last? And if not, shouldn't these be put back? Here's a use for a tiny part of your 11 million dollars, SPS. Put these teachers back. Give schools and kids some continuity for the year.

Anonymous said…
Thank you Frustrated for posting this information. It must have been a lot of work.

My child's elementary is not in West Seattle, so I'll presume because it is not in the list you provided that we will not lose a teacher at our school after all. It will be a relief to not have class sizes of 31-32 for 4th and 5th grades.

Originally, it was projected we would have 20 fewer students next school year than current and we were going to lose funding for one teacher. At current our enrollment for 2016-2017 is actually only down 7 students from this year's enrollment.

Thank you again,
Maureen said…
This seems VERY late to announce displacements. Actually,Frustrated, it's early. It has been standard to do this in October. Though I wonder if they will just do it all over again then. How many middle schoolers go private every year without notifying SPS? (I would hope that they take that into account when they make these cuts and are only off if the number who stay or go are significantly different than the pattern.)
Anonymous said…
As my third and final student graduates tomorrow, I say without guilt that I'm glad we're done. Three students over a span of almost 25 years, and nothing changed for the better. The one bright spot for my youngest, IB at Sealth, was marred by their requirement that all students take IB classes, whether or not they wish to be there, whether or not they respect another student's right to take their work seriously. Apparently, it's Slacker's Rights override my student's expectation that she's in class to be challenged. Distraction, derision, every step of the way. This had a definite affect on some of her IB teachers, as in scale down rather than up.

If you're going to require students to take IB and CHARGE many of them, make it real. There is no equity for my student in taking away from the program to suit those who have no business participating.

Anonymous said…
Now, displaced teachers can just go elsewhere to get a job easier. Before, they were just stuck in limbo or a partial SPS contract because jobs in other districts have been filled. Now, they can apply for 1.0 FTE in other districts that come available over the summer. A bird in the hand is better than a .6 with a promise of the other .4 when the October head counts come in.

Anonymous said…
Have all of the schools filled their open Principal positions or are some open? Wondering how many were filled internally vs outside district.

- MemoReader
Maureen said…
Westside, given your experience, do you have any suggestions about the best way to encourage under represented students to take (and succeed at) IB (or AP) classes?
Anonymous said…
Maureen/Westside - I don't think the issue is narrowly about the "best way to encourage underrepresented students" to take and be successful in IB/AP classes. The issue is that "AP for all" and "IB for all" is a whimsical solution to occasional excessive gate keeping of students out of AP/IB in some schools.

Students who want to take AP/IB courses should be allowed in period. That probably does mean some students in the course are not ready (lack of preparation, reality about how tough it is, gaps in knowledge, attendance patterns). The way I read Westside's comment (and agree based on my experience in one school) is that students who are neither ready nor interested are forced into IB/AP in some schools and they do manage to hurt the chances of ALL the students in the class at being ready for their respective IB/AP exams based on disruptiveness. When there are students who do not even want to be in an AP/IB class (even if it could be good for them) they should not be forced in or else you wind up with the situation Westside describes at Sealth that the bar for all is lowered under a false guise of equity.

Equity is let all in who want (none forced in OR forced out) and then support those who need additional supports, but keep the bar at the level needed both out of fairness to those ready/willing to work AND so those not quite ready realize they have something to reach for instead of lowering the bar repeatedly.

Maureen said…
Anyone who wants to take an IB class at IHS can, but people still think that IB is exclusive and not representative of the school population as a whole Those people think that if all students were required to take an IB class that more would realize they could succeed at IB and would sign up for other classes. I wonder if that has happened at Sealth?
Anonymous said…
At Roosevelt all students take AP Human Geography. It is designed to be a semester class, but to make it possible for more students to succeed, it is taught as a year-long class. My student learned the material but he found the extra padding in the class so boring and pointless that he stopped doing the homework and failed the course, although he got a high score on the AP exam. The university gave him credit but the school district did not. He had to take another history elective to make up the credit and graduate from Roosevelt. Since then he has graduated from university with honors. His experience of AP-for-all was that his GPA dropped and he did not get to take some electives that he might have liked.

I asked why the district had discontinued the practice of giving a passing grade in an AP course if the student gets a high score on the AP exam. I was told that policy had changed and that type of standards-based grading is no longer allowed. When I asked why the change, I was told that it is important that students learn that it is not enough to master the content, but that they also need to learn to follow directions, cooperate with their teachers and classmates, and complete non-academic requirements before they receive a credential such as a high school diploma; if standards-based grading were allowed, students might just learn the material and not do all of the assigned homework. I did not read through school board policies to find out whether that is really what the policy says.

Obviously his experience did not completely derail his university plans and in the long run was more of an annoyance than a tragic failure. It does seem that when the school district tries to offer everybody the same thing, different students experience it differently, and it just doesn't turn out the same for everybody. It might help to take a closer look at the goals and results for a variety of students when deciding whether to continue, expand, or drop these kinds of initiatives.

BSci Mom
NESeattleMom said…
Does anyone know how to get a diploma when you need 1/2 credit of PE because an academic PE waiver did not get turned in on time? I see an online PE class available thru BYU, but how do you get your high school diploma? My student should graduate tomorrow but is not allowed, although the principal said her transcript shows she qualified. This summer she is at a summer institute so can't stay home to do running start PE which he suggested. She needs to graduate, and it would be nice to graduate from her high school where she has excelled for four years
Carol Simmons said…
Evidently you have spoken with the Principal, your next step is to speak with the Area Director (or the next level).....then I believe there is a level above that level..Director of all the Area Directors ....if this is not resolved fairly and to your and your daughter's satisfaction, then make an appointment with the School Board Director who represents your area.

Of course your daughter would like a diploma from her school and she should receive one.

Is she allowed to participate in Commencement exercises and march with her class? I would review the policy for Commencement participation and if she is denied marching, then begin the same process.

Another option would be for her to "contract" with a teacher for a 1/2 PE credit. Her Counselor could advocate for this and assist her. This can be done. How about contracting with a Summer Institute teacher for the 1/2 PE credit in addition to her SI classes?

There are creative and fair ways to fulfill this requirement so that she can receive her Diploma, march and graduate which should be everyone's goal.

Best of Luck
The issue is that "AP for all" and "IB for all" is a whimsical solution to occasional excessive gate keeping of students out of AP/IB in some schools.

And you know this how? Because Sealth and RBHS have all kids take at least one IB course. To my knowledge, every single AP course is open to any student who signs up (except for those like foreign language which require prerequists.). If you know a high school in specific that is gate keeping AP/IB kids, let me know. I will be glad to pass it on to the Board.
checking in said…
Of course schools have safes. Where would you put all that money that goes through the office to pay the bills for field trips, assemblies, lunch monies, events . . . in the secretary's drawer? It has to be secured and fire proof.

I don't understand how they can cash checks that are five years old? This is a real black eye for the admin sec'y. One has to wonder how the bills for activities were paid? Where did the payments come from? Or did downtown pay for everything without receiving funds to reimburse?
Anonymous said…
My kid's frustration with Roosevelt & especially with Roosevelt AP classes, was that you could master the material but still fail a class because the grades were 70% hoop jumping. The message to my student was that the most important thing to learn was unquestioning compliance, even to the detriment of learning academics. It was soul sucking for a curious student. I think Roosevelt sees it as teaching study skills with the exhaustive, mindless homework requirements. I understand that is important for some students but, I wish they would not include it in the academic grade. Especially since it is 'one size fits all' study skills. My student has not used those study methods at all in college work.

-wasted time
Anonymous said…
I have not heard recently of a school that is gatekeeping access to AP classes, but for many years at Garfield some of the AP classes fill completely and some students cannot take them because there are simply not enough spots available for students who want them. Also at some other schools it has happened that too few students signed up for a class and it was canceled. It is very difficult for the school district to provide good services for students who do not arrive in convenient groups of approximately 30 students.

Maureen said…
I actually agree with what (I think) RJ is saying. Ideally, any student who wants to take an IB or AP class would sign up for it and be allowed to enroll. Supports would exist to help all students achieve. In practice, I have not seen much in the way of official gatekeeping (I could be wrong and am open to being told that.) What I see as the problem is that there is a subset of students who don't think of themselves as AP or IB students and do not try to sign up for the classes even if they could succeed at them. Some schools, or maybe just teachers or counselors in those schools are better at encouraging that type of kid to sign up. RJ, I think, sees the requirement to take an IB or AP class as a shortcut around that human interaction and support.

One thing I don't like about the "everyone takes one IB class and it is Lang and Lit junior year" approach at RBHS and Sealth is that some kids would do better taking IB Math or Chemistry or Music Theory. Why force those kids into Lang and Lit(and dilute the experience for the kids who want to be there)? When Roosevelt began requiring everyone to take the full year AP Human Geography class they stopped offering European History and refused to offer half year Human Geo for kids who could have moved faster. That was silly I think, and a net loss for the kids who could have moved faster and learned more.

The real solution, I think, is to create a culture in the schools where IB and AP are not seen as exclusive classes that some other type of kid takes and to make sure that supports exist so that all kids can succeed at those classes even if they don't have extra supports at home. That would take more resources than just making all of them sign up for a year of Lang and Lit or Human Geo, so I doubt it will happen soon. A compromise would be to require all kids to sign up for an IB or AP course of their choice, with the default being Lang and Lit or Human Geo. Of course, that would be harder for the schools because supports would have to cover multiple subjects and the school would still have to offer non IB/AP LA/History classes for the kids who don't take the default.

I'm interested in working on this issue. I think it is really important.
Lynn said…
wasted time - that was our experience at Garfield too. It is so dispiriting - sucks the joy out of learning.
Anonymous said…
Is the AP Program Helping Disadvantaged Students?

The supports provided to AP students at South High in MA included a summer skills program, plus afterschool and Saturday study sessions. When SPS is reluctant to offer services outside of the normal school day (3x5 schedule proposal), it's difficult to imagine struggling students having the needed supports to excel in an AP course (especially with a 3x5 schedule!!).

-SPS skeptic
NESeattleMom said…
Would commencement 'marching' rules be SPS or high school? Who would have the rules?
Anonymous said…
NESeattleMom -

This sounds like Garfield. Just curious.

Anonymous said…
Checking in ... schools might have safes, but as a sub in the district, I know that not all of them actually work. :(

N by Northwest
Lynn said…
I found out tonight that David Elliott, the fired QAE principal, has been invited to speak at 5th grade graduation tomorrow night. He still has at least one investigation open against him at the District. How does this happen? He shouldn't even be attending, let alone speaking!

- A different Lynn
Maureen said…
What do you mean by "A different Lynn?"
Lynn said…

I think she means she is not me. (The usual Lynn)
Charlie Mas said…
Where would the schools put the cash if they didn't have safes?

In the bank.
NESeattleMom said…
Yes, olive, you are correct. We did not get a last minute reprieve. Beautiful night for graduation at Memorial Stadium. Now our next goal is a diploma...
Anonymous said…
A different Lynn,
I'd imagine Those kids currently in 5th grade are allowed to have a guest speaker of their choosing. It happens because those kids probably want to say goodbye to someone who they saw every day for 5 years that had a positive impact on their lives.
Let it go. He's gone as principal,maybe he's there as a private citizen. stop stirring the pot.
QA Parent
Lynn said…
Except not all kids currently in fifth grade want him there nor were they given a choice in who was invited, but the bullies at QAE don't care about that, do they.

And I will never stop stirring the pot in defense of my child. Perhaps the parents who invited him should have let it go. He was fired, they lost their savior because he wasn't doing his job.

A different Lynn
Lynn said…

I didn't want to cause confusion as I know there is a regular commenter here named Lynn, but I'm not going to hide behind anonymous commenting either.

A different Lynn
Anonymous said…
NESeattleMom -

So sorry your student wasn't able to walk with her class. Universities allow students to walk when they have a class to make up in the summer - why is this not possible with high school? Garfield is able to bend the rules backwards and sideways for some students, but for others they will follow the strictest rules possible. Participating in the rite of passage of walking in graduation is a huge experience. To deny a young adult that milestone because of late paperwork that will be resolved is cruel. The main issue is the diploma, which the student will not get until they complete the course work. Why deny them the evening, the celebration, the time with family and friends to acknowledge their success? I've seen it happen before at GHS, for similar bureaucratic reasons, and it breaks my heart for the kids who have to sit in the stands. Perhaps this happens routinely at every high school, but if it doesn't, this issue should be resolved at GHS. Let them walk!

Unknown said…
To be clear about the 5th graders choosing their guest speakers. My daughter is in 5th grade at QAE and was never given a vote or an opportunity to even discuss who they could invite. I believe this decision was made by a few select parents. No matter how you feel about David, we all know he was fired and that there were people who vehemently supported his separation. At the very least all 5th grade parents should have been asked for feedback on his invitation. This is sending the wrong message to our family and community. Accountability is important lesson for our kids, and celebrating a man who did not do his job isnt the right message. If you personally want your kids to maintain their relationship with David, I support that fully. He shoud not be at graduation and that decsion should not have been made without including all 5th grade parents.
Anonymous said…
RJ: "Equity is let all in who want (none forced in OR forced out) and then support those who need additional supports."

That is my definition of equity as well. No more pitting groups against one another. Every student gets what. they. need. End of story.

My Chief Sealth graduate had great teachers. Any frustrations that we saw with IB are for me, more about society in general. I see no gate keeping at Sealth. OTOH if a student isn't ready to practice mutual respect in ANY class, that learning must be addressed and this must be supported from the top. Mutual respect changes everything.


NESeattleMom said…
Thanks, Olive! I agree!
Anonymous said…
Olive and NESeattleMom, there are schools where this does not happen routinely. I think it depends mainly on the principal's understanding of the best way to enforce rules and the best tone to set within the school. Schools vary widely in their ability to support students in remembering deadlines and in their handling of requests for exceptions.

TwentyFiveFifty said…
@brandon brussell-

As a fellow Queen Anne parent with a child who will enter Kindergarten in the fall of 2017, I keep hearing things like what's happening with the 5th grade speaker for QAE and shake my head. This school seems like a complete mess at times with parents running the show. Am I getting the right vibe or not? Trying to figure out whether or not that school is as good/bad as Coe or Hay is important as we start to make decisions in 6 months.

NESeattleMom said…
Irene, thank you for your insight.
Po3 said…
My eye roll started w/ "invited speaker for 5th-grade graduation."

They are 5th graders people.

Let their teachers wish them well and send them along their merry way.

Po3, while I think the footage of my first son "graduating" from kindergarten is cute, I don't get these "graduations" for younger kids.
Anonymous said…
I lot of schools don't call the 5th grade move to middle school or the 8th grade move to high school, graduation anymore. They call it a commencement and a moving up ceremony. I really dislike like the graduation robes being used for anything other than high school or college graduation. It may look cute on preschoolers but it lessens the meaning for later true graduations.

At Hale, they are continuously checking the status of seniors and there are all sorts of gate checks before the actual ceremony. There are parties for the seniors that they can't attend unless they have there list checked off.


Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Breaking It Down: Where the District Might Close Schools

Who Is A. J. Crabill (and why should you care)?