Friday memos are fun!

Another week, another Friday Memo. Read this to the end for the best part.

In the Friday Memo of December 2, Superintendent Nyland characterized the adults reviewing report cards with students at Garfield High School as "volunteers".

He wrote:
Garfield High School’s Report Card Conferences. As part of their commitment to facilitate student success in their 9th grade year, Garfield High School held their first Report Card Conferences on December 2, 2016. This was an opportunity for professional members of the community to connect with our students and speak to them about their academic goals. Each individual conference took about 5 minutes and gave an opportunity to check in with students to help them set goals related to course performance. Through asking questions, volunteers assisted students in self-reflecting, self-advocating, and setting goals. (emphasis added).

In the Friday Memo of December 9, Superintendent Nyland characterized the adults reviewing report cards with students at Garfield High School as "visitors".

He wrote:
Garfield High School’s Report Card Conferences. As part of their commitment to facilitate student success in their 9th grade year, Garfield High School held their first Report Card Conferences on Friday, December 2, 2016. This was an opportunity for professional members of the community to connect with our students and speak to them about their academic goals. Each individual conference took about five minutes and gave an opportunity to check in with students to help them set goals related to course performance. Through asking questions, visiting community members assisted students in self-reflecting, self-advocating and setting goals. Kim Whitworth our NE Executive Director of Schools was one of the coaches and highly recommended expanded cabinet participate in the next event.
Director Nyland took the time to provide an explanation of the difference between a volunteer and a visitor:
I know this event raised some questions and concerns regarding volunteers versus visitors/guests. A volunteer is an unsalaried person authorized by the School Board to perform volunteer services for the school district. Volunteers have regular schedules and ongoing roles in our schools. Volunteers are required to have a background check run. A guest or visitor is an unsalaried person who, with district approval, assists at a school on a non-regular or one-time basis or attends a school sponsored event or activity. A guest or visitor would typically be required to report their presence at the school office or other designated location, except for specific events such as athletics, performing arts, etc. Garfield High School’s Report Card event used visitors/guests so they did not need to have a background check. Hopefully this background information clears up questions in our community.
So, to be clear, an unsalaried person who, with district approval, assists at a school on a non-regular or one-time basis - say, chaperoning a dance or a field trip - can be classified as a visitor. The difference is not based on the type of assistance they provide or the type of interaction the person has with students, but just whether the assistance is one-time or non-regular. Of course, "non-regular" is a pretty subjective determination.

It would appear that what we have here is the creation of new classification designed specifically to evade regulation. Sort of how an advisory committee can be made exempt from the policies that govern advisory committees by calling it a "task force", a school can evade the policies and procedures that govern volunteers by calling their volunteers "visitors". Got it. Hats off to the superintendent for codifying this method for evading policy and procedure.

Michael Tolley reports that the Preschool Taskforce held its final meeting and will deliver a report to the Superintendent regarding the impacts, risks and benefits for sustaining and expanding the Seattle Preschool Program within Seattle Public Schools on December 15. Can't wait to read it.

The District is having trouble differentiating between Alternative Learning Experience schools and Service Schools. Apparently they are two different names for the same thing. Or not. It's not clear. What is clear is that the District is concerned about "marketing". Someone please read this and make sense of it for me.

Flip Herndon has pretty much stopped writing anything in the Capital Update portion of the Friday Memo. All he says is "see attached". Why so reticent?

That may be better than the Communications Update which, ironically, is a garbled mess. Mumble, bumble, jargon, bargain about the web site. Something, something about the budget gap communication effort. An announcement of the next community engagement task force meeting is the clearest thing in the memo and I have no idea what it's talking about. What is clear is that the communications people think they are doing a bang up job. Nothing else really comes through.

The attachments include data from the survey of HCC families and Thornton Creek families around the various proposals for finding additional capacity for HCC in the North. While the HCC folks were less emphatic about it, the clear favorite is to make Decatur it's own school for HCC students - separate from Thornton Creek.

None of this is very surprising. Here's what was surprising: while only 1.4% of HCC families would be interested in enrolling their kids at Cedar Park as an option school with an emphasis on advanced learning, 10.3% of the Thornton Creek families said that they would enroll their child that school. This intrigues me because 81.9% of Thornton Creek families are strongly opposed to integrating HCC students into Thornton Creek. So they would hate hate hate to have HCC at their school, but some of them would be interested in enrolling their kid at a school with an advanced learning focus. In much larger numbers than the HCC families are interested. Hmmm. I don't know what this means, but it intrigues me.

As interesting as that may be, no part of the memo is more interesting than this (yes, I put the best part at the bottom to reward those who read the whole post).

Chief Sealth is being named as the high school international pathway for the Southeast for the 2017-18 school year. So students rising from Mercer will be routed there. Of course, they can't actually enroll at Chief Sealth because the school is full of local students and does not admit out-of-area applicants. So the District has designated a choice that they won't allow anyone to exercise. Good job!

Wait. It gets worse. Survey results show that almost no one in the program (7% of the Spanish - that's one family - and 4% of the Mandarin - that's also one family) wants to enroll their child at Chief Sealth for high school. Only Rainier Beach is less popular with - ready for this? - 0% of Spanish and 0% of the Mandarin. I guess the IB at Beach isn't enough to interest them. Their most popular choice, by far, is Franklin, which is their attendance area school. This is even after they were informed that Franklin doesn't offer any classes (other than language classes) in Spanish or Mandarin and that Chief Sealth does now offer Social Studies in Spanish and can add Mandarin for Fall 2017 and allows language immersion students to take AP Spanish in the 9th grade.

So we have a situation in which the community clearly prefers Franklin over Sealth. The community even prefers Cleveland over Sealth. Franklin is their attendance area school. The District acknowledges that Sealth would only be a short-term solution. And yet... the District ends up choosing Sealth for 2017. What could possibly have been the deciding factor that made Sealth the District's choice? Only one thing:
"Based on the survey results, and principal conversations, Chief Sealth is being named as the high school international pathway for the Southeast for the 2017-18 school year."
You've seen the survey results. They were strongly against Sealth. So the answer has to be the "principal conversations". In the end, the preferences of the principal at Franklin outweighed the preferences of the bulk of the community.

Think I'm kidding? Here's what Michael Tolley wrote:
Additionally, principals in the Southeast were contacted and engaged about their interest in and capacity to serve as a pathway school for the 2017-18 school year, and none of the schools had an interest and/or readiness to offer a program in 2017-18.
This is how program placement works in Seattle Public Schools: ask around to see which of the principals will take the program. If none of them want it, stick it somewhere impossible.

Compare this process to the policy on program placement, Policy 2200, which says these should be the criteria by which these decisions are made:

  1. Place programs or services in support of district-wide academic goals;
  2. Place programs or services equitably across the district;
  3. Place programs or services where students reside;
  4. Place programs or services in accordance with the rules of the current student assignment plan, and as appropriate, equitably across each middle school feeder region;
  5. Engage stakeholders in a timely and publicly visible manner by informing, involving, and/or consulting with them as appropriate, and consider their input in the decision-making process when feasible;
  6. Utilize physical space resources effectively to assure that instructional and program space needs are equitably met across the district;
  7. Ensure that fiscal resources are taken into consideration, including analyzing current and future fiscal impacts; and
  8. Analyze the impact of any decision before it is made, by using data, research and best practice

  1. In support of district-wide goals, there should be a dual language pathway high school in the southeast at Franklin, Cleveland, or Rainier Beach.
  2. To place programs equitably across the district there should be a dual language pathway high school in the southeast at Franklin, Cleveland, or Rainier Beach.
  3. To place programs where students reside, the dual language high school for students coming out of Mercer should be Franklin.
  4. To place programs in accordance with the rules of the current student assignment plan, the dual language high school should be Franklin.
  5. The stakeholder engagement clearly shows that the dual language high school should be Franklin - by a wide margin.
  6. There is space available at Franklin, Cleveland and Rainier Beach. There is no space available at Chief Sealth.
  7. There least expensive option (transportation costs) would be Franklin
  8. The data, the research, and the best practice would be to place the program at Franklin.
The clear choice, based on the official process would be Franklin - by far. But everything goes right out the window if the principal says no. The principal at Franklin doesn't want it so it doesn't happen, no matter what the official process is supposed to be because the official process is not the real process.

This is a clear case in which the Board needs to step up and intervene. Good thing they amended the policy so they can.

Also - this is a decision that has been in the works for months - Michael Tolley says so in his memo an the letter to the 8th grade families is dated September 29, 2016. Yet this program placement decision was not mentioned as a pending decision in the quarterly report on program placements presented to the Board Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee on October 10. Tsk tsk. That policy needs some enforcement help, doesn't it?


Anonymous said…
Washington Middle School's recent staff survey:
0% of staff feel the climate at WMS is great
11% feel the climate at WMS is good
37% feel the climate is ok
29% feel the climate is bad
23% feel the climate is really negative
Staff morale is low. Teachers do not feel supported by admin and don't feel that their concerns are acknowledged or that they are even given a forum to express their concerns. Students have received the message loud and clear that they can do whatever they want and there will be no consequences.
- Feeling Hopeless
Ed said…
Feeling hopeless:

Hope left Washington over a year ago and there are lots of stories behind those numbers.

If you liked how Kelly A. fixed Emerson, you will love Sarah's tutelage at Washington.
Anonymous said…
Who is Sarah?
Trust me, I have many of my own stories.
If you got out, I envy you.
Charlie Mas said…
@Feeling Hopeless, is this staff survey publicly available? The staff survey on the District web site doesn't have this question, but Washington scores very low on a number of critical questions.
Anonymous said…
I don't believe it is posted anywhere publicly. An email was sent to all staff with results and comments staff made.
Ed said…
Sarah is the former McClure principal responsible for "supervising" the one at Washington.

As usual, results not so good.
"Garfield High School’s Report Card event used visitors/guests so they did not need to have a background check", so at least Nyland admits they classified them as visitors simply so no pesky background check was required. So much for student safety....
Po3 said…
In looking at the SPS visitor policy it clearly states:

It is the policy of the Seattle School Board to encourage school visitation by
parents/guardians, family members, and adult members of the community in
order to observe the educational program, provided that only minimal disruption
of the program occurs. Such visitation shall occur in conformance with specific
District and administrative procedures.

Visitors observe; volunteers interact.
Nyland simply rewrote policy 4200 to suit GHS.

Anonymous said…
When I was at WMS the first year her majesty arrived I knew then the school was heading down a road that was not pretty, I left immediately. I stopped by last year and the staff that remained are at clearly at wits end, many others are newbies who are clueless and the whole camera thing is another fiasco.

I don't miss it at all

- Old Timer
Lynn said…
Was the staff survey at Washington expected to be confidential?

Because of on-going teacher complaints, the building representatives held two meetings with junior high school teachers in February 2004. At these meetings the building representatives took notes concerning complaints about Follmer. Arnie Handeland, the union president, thereafter informed Follmer of the concerns expressed by the teachers. As a consequence, Follmer initiated a written survey of teachers at the junior high school in April 2004. She assured teachers the survey results would be confidential and would not be reviewed by her. In May 2004, Follmer reviewed survey results in a meeting with the teachers, reading aloud portions of the teachers' written comments.

The above was taken from this decision of the Public Employment Relations Commission:
Anonymous said…
Why are the cameras a fiasco? Other less diverse middle schools have cameras, why not Washington? Do you know how atrocious hallway behavior is this year? Kids know they can do or say anything, flip teachers off, swear in their faces, and absolutely nothing will happen. Teachers' personal belongings have been stolen, student is caught, nothing is done.
The principal has no leadership abilities at all.
Anonymous said…
Can't you do a public records request to get the staff survey results?

Yes, the Superintendent said all this at the last Board meeting. I think he changed/stretched/revised policy to allow this event at GHS. As well, my public records request shows that neither Aki nor Denny had volunteers come in and work with kids at report card conferences (sorry, Denny had one.) I have the district saying that both did this and had great success so why not GHS? I guess the answer is that someone stretched the truth in order to push this thru.
Anonymous said…

Cameras should be in all schools in all hallways, I would be pro in classes but we get into the whole privacy issue that would prevent that

However the issue I am referring to is that explanation or whatever that was regarding the one they were going to put in the cafeteria and she claimed it was for those kids not cleaning up after themselves.

WMS was once a crown jewel it has been falling apart now over the last 4 years and her Majesty is the final nail in that coffin.

The school the last time I was there reminded me of Orca and that is another one that is hot mess (thankfully Madrona is closing up its middle school as there is another) that seems to not know what to do with regards to student behavior. My friend who subs there said that one day a girl walked into the class trailed by her Majesty and threatened another girl, including cutting her up etc and her Majesty just stood and watched this exchange and said "we need to leave now" and escorted the girl back out as if it was just a day in the park.

As I said, the minute I encountered her I packed my tent and warned a couple of others that a new wind was blowing and it was a hot gassed one.. they too have left and she stacked the deck with some new young inexperienced teachers who were sure that her vision was the way to go. Right, I'll have a Twinkie with that Kool Aid you're serving

- Old Timer
Anonymous said…
lie, lie, lie, until my city took the district away.

what a self centered ass nyland is. it will be on him and only him as mcmuarry tries to get reelected through sps control. follmer is a joke. not a funny joke though. like one you would never say in front of your aunt type of joke. when i think about dt i think about the hunger games.

next two years will be interesting. my understanding is that meany is trying to bolster their hc offerings to bring neighborhood hc kids home. with a loss of 300+ gen ed/spectrum kids wms will be smaller but manageable. with a loss of another 100+ hc kids watch out. follmer is also asking parents to respond to a survey about meany if you live near it. but first please identify yourself. in addition, their have been several emails about next year from parents long ready to jumpship. just looking for a enough to warrant the move. oh and opening madison as a hcc site becomes a joke t00.

all you hcc haters will be surprised how much you miss the stability the cohort provided to your kids. but i am sure you will be on to option schools then. i believe tolley gets a commision from sas and lakeside to chase kids away from sps.

don't short charters or private schools folks.

Charlie Mas said…
The official staff climate survey that's posted on the District web site is not positive. Not at all.

All of this makes us repeat a number of questions:

1. How are principals appointed? The process is different for every school. Some school communities have involvement, some don't. There's zero transparency. Let's see a codified process.

2. How are principals evaluated? What are the measures of a good principal? Shouldn't staff satisfaction be one of the primary measures? Shouldn't student and family satisfaction also be among the top factors?

3. How are principals held accountable for their performance? The few times we have ever heard of a principal getting fired it was for stupid things, but principals who abuse their staff and their community never seem to be in trouble.

4. What do the Executive Directors of Schools do? They don't appear to respond when principals struggle. We don't see them holding anyone accountable? In fact, the only times they ever come out of their hidey-holes at the JSCEE it's to defend the indefensible.
Elsa said…
E.D.'s have a number of hide-outs and since they "keep their own time" are free to come in late, leave early and disappear in between.

They prop up the culture of lawlessness Charlie. No kidding, that's the job. And keep the line moving.
Anonymous said…
According to the 2015-2016 table of Seattle Public schools "other district admin" category found at Detailed Table: Seattle Public Schools each ED makes approx $171,440 - so the 5 of them total about $860,000 - seems like that's a few school librarians or nurses that wouldn't need to be laid off....

Although I must say - there's some pretty hefty salaries on the teaching/principal side too - fascinating.

Erik Tanen said…
The projections given by the new principal at Meany was that there would be 550 kids coming from WMS next year. This is going to dramatically change the nature of the school. It is currently two very different schools in one and will be even more so after the change.
I find a lot of parents and administrators who are staying at WMS are putting their head in the sand and hoping for the best.
At both meetings that have happened, there are a lot of HCC parents that would love to move their kids if Meany would provide some type of advanced learning.
I think Meany will thrive and I fear for what's left of WMS.
Anonymous said…
In response to that Erik, the old Meany was a dump times 10 and the irony that it will become what WMS was is not surprising. The park adjacent, the neighborhood is highly gentrifying, the neighbors will love it as they hated the World School. And the move out of the Nova kids who got a better deal by going back to their way superior old home. And the World School will not last it has had Admin turnover again with another Admin who has equally a bad rep so watch the old TT Minor return to its roots and become a better elementary in the process to feed HCC to Meany.

This is the Seattle Process, churn, burn and never learn.

-Old Timer
Anonymous said…
Unless they have a way into other (overcrowded) schools or can go private, parents and faculty staying at WMS don't have a lot of choice but to put their heads down and hope for the best. What, exactly, are their other options?

-no escape
Lynn said…
Meany won't be overcrowded so students in the WMS attendance area can likely access that. HCC students can always return to their attendance area schools. I don't know how many will want to leave, but there do seem to be options.
Anonymous said…
Re: Washington and Meany and potential choice of Meany for some HCC families. How would the 8th grade grandfathering amendment figure in here? Does it mean that Meany would open as a 6, 7 roll-up basically, like Eagle Staff? What sort of choice would Meany be for 8th graders if no 8th graders are assigned in 2017?

Anonymous said…
I’m not sure why we would move to Meany if classes like Biology and Geometry are not offered as my 7th grader is currently in Algebra and Physical Science. Ms Oatis isn't committing to those classes yet and I don’t see how she could offer them if only 7 or even 15 kids qualify.
-mms or wms-
n said…
I'm wonder what reader47 considers a "hefty" salary for a teacher?
Anonymous said…
Hefty is one of those "in the eye of the beholder" words - my measure might be drastically different than yours - look for yourself at the link provided and make up your own mind. We don't have to agree. I get to have my opinion. You get to have yours - spiffy, isn't it?


Anonymous said…
I agree that SPS policy would mandate that the international program land at Franklin. At the same time (and I'm speculating here), I applaud the FHS principal for rejecting the new program without district support in implantation and operation. Through my 9+ years in central/SE seattle schools, I've seen so many programs come and go. I'm deeply committed to international education. And I also believe that district support is critical for its implementation.

- southpaw
n said…
Sounds more like avoidance to me, Reader47.
Charlie Mas said…
@-mms or wms-

Washington has eliminated Spectrum. Meany, as an attendance area middle school, will have to offer Spectrum. There area significant number of Spectrum-eligible students in the Meany service area, so there is good reason to believe that Meany will be capable of forming a strong Spectrum program (if they so choose). Since math placement is not determined by program, there is good reason to believe that there will be enough students to justify an eighth grade Geometry class filled with HCC-eligible students who choose Meany over Washington, Spectrum-eligible students, and general education students who are strong in math. Besides, state law and District policy says that all schools have to provide HC services for their HC students. So they will find a way to offer Geometry.

Meany may not be able to offer Biology, but there could be plenty of people who find that a small price to pay to send their HC child to a neighborhood school, especially if the school shows any real interest in meeting their academic needs instead of doing it grudgingly and with animosity.

Let's remember that anyone in the Meany attendance area also lives in the Garfield attendance area, so their child can go to Garfield anyway, where they will be placed, like everyone else, in the Honors for All humanities classes and will have full access to all of the AP classes there.
seattle citizen said…
n - looking at the figures, "hefty" means able to pay the mortgage on a two bed, one bath house in Seattle, buy groceries, and have a little left over for an occasional weekend getaway to La Conner....
seattle citizen said…
We could save a lot of money by trimming those hefty salaries if all educators would just move somewhere where housing is more reasonable and commute into Seattle...
...I'm thinking Cle Elum, or maybe Lynden?
RLF said…
When S. F. was a principal at University Place, she lost an unfair labor practices case and was given a corrective action plan by her superiors. The case is online and is instructive. She is the second Seattle principal I know about who has had labor problems in another district and then been hired by Seattle. The second lost an unfair labor practices case at one of Seattle's elementary schools.
Anonymous said…
The WMS principal had said there were 7 non-HCC WMS students in the Meany area who are on track for Geometry next year. So unless neighborhood HCC families also transfer their kids, you are saying that Meany will be required to offer Geometry for those 7 students because of state law and district policy? If thats the case, why has the Meany principal been non-committal about offering Geometry?
-mms or wms-
NE Parent said…
State law says the district has to provide services to HCC. State law doesn't define what the HCC services are leaves that completely up to the district. My experience with district policy is more about intent and goals for HCC rather than offering anything a parent can ask be enforced at any given school.
Lynn said…
Whitman and Meany parents should look to McClure to see what types of classes small middle schools are able to offer. McClure's highest math class is 8th grade algebra, only one world language is offered and there are no physical science or biology classes.
Charlie Mas said…
Principals are non-committal because they don't want to commit and they don't have to. They would rather under-promise and out-perform than the other way around.

State law requires the school to provide appropriate HC services for any HC students enrolled. That doesn't translate directly into offering a Geometry class, but it does imply some kind of access to Geometry instruction. That access can be off-campus or online. Most likely online. How does Eckstein do it? If there is sufficient demand for Geometry, it will be more efficient to provide that access in the form of a class rather than any other way. If there are already 7 non-HC students who are on track for it then the class becomes a good choice when about 18 more want it. That could be 18 HC students. If Meany has space available for out-of-area students to enroll, then some non-HC students now at Washington could also make that choice.
mirmac1 said…
Curious what you think will come from the SPP Task Force's report, Charlie? While it's not going to read like I would have it written (i.e. fire and brimstone), it will lay out an unequivocal statement about equity and fairness.

No matter what the report says, the School Board has the final say and gives direction to its employee Nyland - And it better be on the right side of civil rights. No excuses because Doug Gill or lazy bureaucrats can't be bothered to enforce the laws. If our elected officials don't ensure our district follows the law, then that's a bigger problem than just the everyday ignorance and neglect of children with disabilities.
Charlie Mas said…
@mirmac1, I'm not so sure that the report on Seattle Preschool Program will, in fact, make a statement about equity and fairness.

The report, according to the Friday memo, will be about "the impacts, risks and benefits for sustaining and expanding the Seattle Preschool Program within Seattle Public Schools". I suspect it will be more about facility use than equity or IDEA.

Either way, it's pointless to make speculation about what will be in it. We should just read it. The report should be done now, but I haven't seen it. Perhaps it will be in the next Friday Memo.
Anonymous said…

Are you sure about McClure?
The website says this:

"*Geometry is exclusively for students who have completed the algebra and passed the EOC test prior to 8th grade."

I'm also pretty sure freshpersons at Ballard can take Bio if they have passed algebra at McClure.

Ballard Bridge
Lynn said…
Ballard Bridge,

I don't know anyone at McClure. I did see this math pathway on their website:
mirmac1 said…
Nope. District staff tried to bring in the whole capacity mgmt, space utilization stuff. But Director Geary and Harris formed this Task Force for other reasons. The stated goals are:

A. Input on an affirmation statement between Seattle Public Schools and City of Seattle to create inclusive preschools in Seattle that seek out and welcome students regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, social-emotional learning needs or learning style.
B. Analysis of the student population being served to date by Seattle Preschool Program in comparison with the numbers of children 3-5 served by Seattle Public Schools Special
Education Department.
C. Assessment of the financial impact preschool classrooms has on the K-12 buildings and
feasibility of eliminating the 25% performance holdback.
D. Analysis of preschool feeder patterns to determine if preschools are offering a continuum of services for a diverse population of students within each middle school feeder area.

It won't be done until Task Force members review and concur or post their own statements.
mirmac1 said…
BTW, the Task Force was data-starved until we began demanding such data. Our data-lovin' district really has no clue with respect to this stuff.

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