Friday Memo of September 16, 2016

Oh, these Friday Memos and the stuff you find in them.

The Superintendent's letter covered a lot of topics quickly. His recap of the Board Retreat would is, I suspect, better than the Board Retreat. It covered all of the topics at about the same level of detail, but used up only a few seconds of reading time instead of a whole day. It's mostly platitudes until the One Time Funds part at the end. The good news there is money to start the middle school math adoption (we can see the beginning of the end for CMP II), and money for IB and teacher cut back mitigation.
In the brief blurb about the Seattle Center, we learn that the school district's needs (which includes a high school) were among the primary topics for discussion. The superintendent has made it clear that it is up to the Board to decide where and how to add north end elementary HCC capacity.

Michael Tolley's letter includes a feeble defense of the arbitrary caps put on Special Education enrollment at Option Schools. In his letter he makes reference to a document that speaks to the heart of the issue. Of course, the document, Special Education Program Placement in Option Schools, is not attached. The central question, which Mr. Tolley does not address, is how does the District set the cap for Special Education enrollment at Option Schools? Or at any other schools, for that matter.

The Facilities and Operations letter says that there will be will be a community meeting at Madrona on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 from 6-7pm where the district will be sharing more information and collecting feedback on changing Madrona from a K-8 to an elementary school when Meany Middle School reopens as a comprehensive middle school in the fall of 2017.

The HR letter says that there are 94 teacher vacancies in the district right now including 21 elementary teachers and 19 special education teachers.


Anonymous said…
In the memo regarding AL:

"development of the MSC Eligibility Decision process"


According to the Al website it's been up and running for a while; the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MSC).

Linh-Co said…
Only 2 million set aside for middle school math. Not enough but a start.
seattle citizen said…
I am confused about how Special Ed caps in buildings can be placed. Students, by law, have a right to LRE - Least Restrictive Environment. If a student is at, say, Blaine and going along great, then is evaluated and given an IEP (becomes Special Ed), that student is entitled, by law, to continue at Blaine with services provided, right? Certainly there are "types" of Special Ed that require particular equipment or highly specialized staff, so perhaps a FEW students might have to go elsewhere for services, another building where that highly specialized need can be met, but generally students should expect to receive services at their regular, gen-ed school, right? The district would HAVE to provide staffing and accommodations to meet that need at the school the student is at? Same with a student entering a school - they choose, or assigned, to their school and THEN...THERE...their SpEd requirements are addressed. Otherwise they aren't getting LRE.
I'm not an expert, so maybe I'm missing something....
Lynn said…
seattle citizen,

That's my understanding too. District administration seems to be dragging their heels on accepting it though.
Anonymous said…
Why so many teacher vacancies? Is there a nationwide shortage of teachers? Or do they just not want to work in Seattle?
Charlie Mas said…
@NwMom, I believe a number of the teacher vacancies are the result of teachers leaving the district with short notice - either retiring, taking a teaching job outside the district, or leaving the profession.
Jet City mom said…
Some career paths like teaching, may also be having a high number people reaching retirement age, without equal numbers of people entering the teaching force.

My youngest graduated sometime ago, but when she was in elementary, inability to find subs had several classrooms in the cafeteria, so that they could share teachers.

Seattle really needs to get a handle on why they cannot keep and attract good new teachers, before we have an exodus of families like we did in the 60's& 70's. ( which I expect was due to the Evergreen bridge completion as well as busing)
Anonymous said…
Thanks to Rick Burke for pushing better math in middle school. It sure does matter who is on the School Board.

S parent
seattle citizen said…
Regarding teacher vacancies: Bigger class sizes means proportionately more work. If a class size goes from 25 to 35, on average, then the teacher has, theoretically, 40% more work, which is enormous. Even a twenty percent increase (27ish to 33) is huge in some disciplines - think of the grading load. If they can find a gig in a district with smaller class sizes, or in a private school, it might be very attractive to do so. Not only is it less work, but the academic environment is much better - more teaching and learning, less management and control.

And, of course, the years of denigration of educators, the placing the blame for societal and system failures on their shoulders does not improve morale. Pretty tough to come into the profession wanting to educate and work with children because you love them and want to further their lives and then have it inferred or stated directly that you're racist, you basically suck, you are a "dinosaur" stuck in "the status quo" and are a leach on society...That's not a healthy environment in which to work.
kellie said…
One of the reasons for teacher shortage is the late teaching hiring is the SPS budget cycle.

Even though Seattle has been growing for years now, Seattle has also done RIFs in the Spring. This means that teachers are let go in the Spring and then need to be re-hired in August or September. By that point, many (most) of the teachers are long gone.

You can really see this at high school. High School Spanish is an incredible challenge district wide, because each school RIFs and re-hires independently and electives like Spanish are an easy target because it used-to-be easy to re-hire in September. However, that is just not the case any longer.

I wrote a longer explanation that Mel blogged a few months ago, under that I would do with the budget reserve. Displacing and re-hiring is expensive and just plain unnecessary with the growth in Seattle.

Many of these changes can be seen on the staffing adjustments FAQ.

Outsider said…
In a district with in the range of 2,000 teachers, I wonder if 90 vacancies in September is unusual at all. WA teachers retain seniority when they switch districts, and there seems to be lots of shuffle every fall, as teachers snag openings in other districts closer to home or with more affordable housing or more sane principal or fewer discipline problems or whatever, which creates a vacancy in their prior district, which pulls in applicants from other districts, and so on.

Of those 90 vacancies, a chunk are special ed which probably has high turnover; and others probably require hard-to-find endorsements or something. The number of vanilla classroom jobs open doesn't seem that big, and probably there are plenty of applicants.
Anonymous said…
I wasn't at the board meeting last night. From what I've read, highlights=Burke pushing for $$ for MS math, and the principals' performance reviews will NOT be tied to test scores.

Anything else worth mentioning?

Keeping up
Josh Hayes said…
Those interested in the number of teaching vacancies, I can report to you that SPS has a later hiring window than other districts. This means that nearby districts are advertising positions, interviewing, and hiring teachers before SPS has even started advertising in many cases. I had a few feelers after I had already taken a job in Lake Washington SD, but it was too late even if I had wanted the jobs. If the district wants to be competitive, they need to move the window forward to be comparable with nearby districts, otherwise the good candidates will get snapped up early and SPS will be left with a bunch of vacancies.

I'm not fishing: I'm very happy with where I work! But I think the district is shooting itself in the foot here.
Josh Hayes said…
Oh, whoops, Kellie has already touched on this above. Sorry, Kellie! I should have credited you with this.
kellie said…
Thanks Josh!! The more people that raise this issue the better!!!
Charlie Mas said…
Seattle Public Schools is well aware of their tardy hiring window. They have been for years. That's why early hiring is a Board priority and one of the Superintendent's goals. Unfortunately they have been working on this for five years and the District still hasn't been able to move their hiring window.
Charlie Mas said…
I keep coming back to the same question:

How does Seattle Public Schools set the cap on Special Education enrollment at both option schools and Attendance Area schools?

How - and why - does the District determine the maximum enrollment for students receiving any sort of services (Special Education, ELL, ALO, Spectrum, HC, etc.) at any schools?

In a related question, how does the District determine the maximum enrollment for students in programs (Spectrum, HCC, Special Education, BOC, Montessori, Language Immersion, Biotech, etc.) at schools?

I have been through both the policy and the procedure, and they don't provide an answer. The entire process appears arbitrary to me. I have been down this road before and I have never heard a satisfactory answer. The enrollment caps are not explained. One would think they either spring out of the ground or fall from the sky.

My suspicion is that the principal sets them unilaterally based on any method the principal chooses. I remember very clearly one year when Jeff Clark set the enrollment cap for 6th grade Spectrum at Denny at 12. In that year, 25 Spectrum students applied for enrollment at Denny so 13 of them were waitlisted. No rationale for the enrollment cap was offered, but the District assured me that the cap would be adjusted to 25 so all of the students could enroll. They never explained where the cap came from or why it was necessary.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, it's my understanding that pathway schools don't have a cap on HCC enrollment. But I'm curious about Fairmount park as an "option" HCC site. And also IBX at ingraham. They have not explained at all how seats are assigned or wait listed there. They have not addressed how IBX seats would be assigned if neighborhood gen-ed demand increases.
Anonymous said…

I am not an expert at this, but from my experience at a school with robust special education programming, the "room" for special ed students is based upon the delivery model(s), student:teacher ratio, etc...if the student:teacher ratio is exceeded, then, in theory, the school should get additional teachers and classrooms for special ed.

To my knowledge, the attendance-area school my kids attended followed the SAP, with kids living in the attendance area getting enrollment preference. This resulted in the special education programming being overloaded. The school eventually expanded its Special education programming. I'm not a parent there anymore, so I don't know if special ed programming is still maxed out. I do know that school capacity is maxed out (unless more portables can be added).

-North-end Mom
Unknown said…
Regarding the Special Education Assignment Issues

@Charlies Mas, the capping issue is the heart of the issue--the caps on attendance schools and options schools. Who and how the caps are determined and who and how some students get in and others do not is a mystery.The memo does not improve the transparency on this issue, and only further illuminates the fact that there is no process or procedure that Special Education Administration can articulate. Further, the legitimacy of having a cap on a service at an attendance school is another mystery. If Special Education truly is a service, and the service is available in the attendance area school, then the service out to be available to a student who lives in the attendance area.

I appreciate the fact that there was a legitimate attempt to present data. This is an improvement from past practices. I am not sure that the K-8 data that is presented is accurate or complete. In any case, it is difficult to analyze because although it includes statistics on students at K-8 schools and elementary schools, it does not include the data from comprehensive middles schools. It reflects figures on 27,146 general education students in K-8, 2852 special education students and only 960 students who receive intensive special education services. It would have been helpful to have the data on the option schools also include the general education enrollment at the option schools. I can find this information separately, but it's just going to take more time to analyze.

If I were a school board member who had asked for data and a presentation to the board by October, I would not be satisfied at all with the response of putting off a presentation and discussion to the board until May simply because there is an OCR complaint on the same issue that has not been resolved. Putting this discussion off until May because the there have been a lot of formal complaints on this issue only further promotes injustice for families, as another session of open enrollment will have come and gone by then.

I ask that school directors hold the administration to their original direction: a presentation to the board in a work session by October 31, 2016.
Anonymous said…
For context are there any caps on the resource room models or just on the various self-contained ones at the option schools?

Unknown said…
No, resource room models are always served at the assigned school. The self contained models have caps on both assigned neighborhood school as well as option schools.

Anonymous said…
MaryG - do you really believe that resource room disabilities are "assigned just like everyone else"? The district has been caught lying about this in the past, so it is hard to know what is really true now. The district has always claimed that resource room students were assigned just like everyone else. Salmon Bay was found to have a secret double waitlist - one for regular kids, and another for resource room kids. This was discovered because a student with Down Syndrome from Thornton Creek (the listed feeder elementary at the time) was denied admission to Salmon Bay middle school. The student with Down Syndrome was the one and only kid from TC to be denied admission to Salmon Bay. How curious. The district claimed that the child was simply the victim of bad luck. Salmon Bay was simply full. After looking into it - parents discovered the double wait list. Ball game over. District caved in - once again, after being caught in a lie. The student was enrolled as was supposed to have happened in the first place. Most of us know the truth. The district doesn't want students with Down Syndrome in regular ed. So, they did anything, including breaking their own rules to engineer the school the way they wanted it: without the student.

By the way, the district has also said it "assigns" students with more significant disabilities "the same as everybody else". It also says that "every comprehensive secondary school has every service". Those are both lies. So, do you believe the resource room story? Or is that a lie too?

Anonymous said…
Which is to say Alias - I believe the district probably jiggers "resource room" model caps too, and then lies about it. Do you think they really want to hire another resource room teacher - when they could just change the enrollment and ship a kid off to their attendance area school? That would save $100 grand. My money's on the money. Eg. They would jigger the enrollment in a dollar beat! Of course it goes the other way too. If an attendance area school resource population passes the "hire a new resource teacher" threshold, I'm sure the student who listed an option school might get an unearned preference.

Unknown said…
Spedvocate, I have no proof of what you are speculating about. It would be very difficult to prove what you say. On the other hand, I do have proof that there are caps on intensive services at neighborhood assigned schools as well as option schools.

Your beliefs as to what might be going on are pure speculation at this time. As I have no proof of anything different from what the district says, I am going to go with what the say until I know otherwise.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools