Parsing the Friday Memos

I circled back to Friday Memos from the Superintendent because there was a review of Advanced Learning (Spectrum) in the one from June 30th. 

I will get to that important thread but I see a couple of newer ones that deserve some attention.  (Also to note, they need to get better proofreading.  There's some sloppiness in these memos that should not be there.  For example, from the Superintendent Memo of August 11, 2017:

Seattle’s Office of Economic Development shared insightful information on Seattle’s growth and why are students need to be Seattle and beyond ready;

Highlights of the July/August Memos

- looks like the new high school at Seattle Center is going at top speed. The Superintendent provides an update in both the July and August Memos about the project. In neither places is there any mention of protecting the memorial wall or name. The City and the district are paying $20K for...consultants "to meet with the parties to understand than wants and needs of all.

- Remember the City was paying for the gap for two-tier busing and crossing guards? Luckily, the funding is still there for the busing but not for the crossing guards. Pegi McEvoy in Operations is trying to find out if there are any other city funds (he names the school zone traffic camera fees but that money is all spoken for).

Nyland says parents will need to be notified and "providing crossing guards is not a state requirement and the state is drastically reducing our ability to meet local needs."

- The Ethnic Studies Task Force has completed their initial recs. Expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks.

- The August Memo also seems to reflect the turmoil over homeless athletes as they readdress the federal law, McKinney-Vento, which governs support of homeless students.
SPS staff are mid-review of district systems to ensure this vulnerable population receives full academic and other support services while enrolled in our district regardless of their participation in any extracurricular programs. Areas we are examining now include any options to verification of where a student lives without creating a barrier to enrollment and full participation in school; examining academic eligibility requirements; centralizing the designation of a student as homeless; reinforcing rules and expectations for athletes, parent, coaches and booster clubs; and understanding different perspectives on bias and the role athletics plays for offering a path to college.
- the Gates Foundation is offering the district a grant to support the Seattle Preschool Program by funding staff for the program.

- An event to celebrate the unveiling and dedication of the Andrew Morrison's murals and Honoring Circle at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Cascadia Elementary and Licton Springs K-8 School. The public ceremony will be held August 25, 5 until 8 p.m. at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, 1330 N. 90th St. Morrison's Indian Heritage Murals depict portraits of prominent historical figures such as Chief Seattle, Chief Joseph, Geronimo and Sitting Bull.

The 25-foot-high, 20-foot-wide murals were designated as a City of Seattle Landmark in 2014.

I've driven past these murals; they are simply stunning.

- Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies: The public, families, staff and School Board are invited to celebrate the opening of new schools and buildings over these next few weeks.
  • Olympic Hills, Thursday, August 31, 12 p.m.
  • Meany Middle School, Thursday, August 31, 4 p.m. 
  • Cascadia Elementary, Tuesday, September 5, 10:30 a.m. 
  • Licton Springs K-8, Tuesday, September 5, 12 p.m. 
  • Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Tuesday, September 5, 1:30 p.m
Here's the Memo from Monday, July 24th.
Here's the Memo from August 11th.

From July 24th:

Continuum on Becoming a Multi-cultural Organization
Key Success Indications - 2015-16 District-wide Results
K-12 Financial Resources - Total Net Investment (Slide 3)
SPS & City Agreement - Memorial Stadium & Seattle Center
Family Survey District Results - Spring 2017
OSPI Letter - 2016-17 Special Education Safety Net Funding
Pictures & Sketch of Andrew Morrison's Murals
Education Action Plan - Advisory Group Recommendations

These items listed do not appear in this order; indeed, the Strategic Plan for 2017-2018 is the first item in the Memo and yet doesn't appear on this list.

Key Success Indicators (from 2015-2016), page 6
There's a pretty amazing stats on how well white girl students do as compared to white boys, all students and African-American girls and boys. For example, for 9th graders with B average GPA and above, white girls were at 77%, white boys at 64%, all students at 60%, AA girls 42% and AA boys 21%.

Safety Net Funding: Each year, school districts are invited to submit requests for additional special needs funding for high needs students. When we have more high need students that require extra help we can ask the state to help. This year we received $2.9M. Thanks to our staff that worked hard to document and submit this request. See the attached letter from OSPI for more information.
New News
Executive Directors of Schools (EDSs) restructuring: For the past six months we have been considering a change to the present regional structure. Our High School 24 credit work has been one factor – along with the Board interest in continued clarification of the EDSs’ role. Mike Starosky has been discussing options with the EDSs and with the principals – considering the pros and cons of the existing five-region structure vs. a grade level structure (3 elementary; 2 middle school/high school). Mike will be sharing more information.

I continue to be baffled as to why Mr. Starosky cannot clarify what it is the ED role is and isn't, both to the Board and to parents.

Family Survey: Over 10,000 parents responded to our recent end of the year survey. Highlights include: 
a. District satisfaction up 10%
b. I understand the goals of the district up 10%
c. District reaches out on important decisions up 14%
d. District communications are helpful up 15% 

e. I receive help when I call up 6%
f. Easy to find information on web site up 5%

The Family Survey, dated Spring 2017, starts on page 14. The responses were overwhelmingly from white parents (68%) and Asian parents 12%. English is spoken at home by 79% of the respondents.

District satisfaction - 42%, up 10%. That's great it went up but the district isn't at even 50% of the parents being satisfied?

There are other upward trends to be sure but again, from where they started - not good.

- District responsive to input/concerns of families - 28%

- Easy to find info on website - 38%

- Understanding strategic goals/priorities - 40%

- Support strategic goals/priorities - 38%

- District reaches out to parents about important decisions for families - 53%

- District provides a good education - 52%

- Communications are clear, timely and informative - 50%

- Effective service/support when I call/visit JSCEE - 34%

- District does good job engaging community on issues and concerns - 42%

Seattle Center high school project

The district says they need a new high school in addition to Lincoln.

Page 12 has a timeline/milestones for this plan. They have already had siting meetings which I wished I had known about and would have asked to attend; wonder if the Board knew? During the month of August there should be a report to the Mayor and the Superintendent on the outcomes of those siting meetings.

From August to October there are to be more meetings of different types and "development of approach for public outreach and elected official involvement." "consultants as needed" But, in October-November, the chart says, "possible public outreach efforts." A little late, no? Gives the feeling of a done deal.

It also says there would be planning meetings for BEX V with "SPS Levy Oversight Committee." That would be a bit different as the Oversight Committee doesn't usually weigh in on the list of projects which should include Rainier Beach High School and have RBHS near the top of the timeline for projects.

They project opening the new high school in 2022-2023.

In the August Memo, the district says it wants this:

Our SPS needs are: a) continuing to have a vibrant Memorial Stadium that is central with adequate parking; b) maintaining parking which funds much of our athletics program; c) replacement of a high school building either on the Seattle Center site or another mutually agreeable site (stadium site, other locations on Seattle Center, Fort Lawton and others are possible locations.)

On the City's Seattle Education Action Plan, there's quite the laundry list of items. See page 23. Most of these make sense but on the issue of mentorship, there is a very mixed record of success according to research studies.

Expand School-Based Health Centers - great but that will mean the City will need to ask for even more funding for the Families and Education next go-round.

Create an IB Pathway - expand the continuum through elementary and middle schools. Expand SPS International Schools/Dual Language programs.
Nope. Unless the City wants to commit to long-term funding, this is a non-starter. The district doesn't even fully-fund the existing programs in the high schools and those programs struggle because of it. And, the district expanded dual-language schools and it's the same story - they don't fully-fund those programs.

Levy Accounting and Accountability: Our levy will be reduced for the 2018-19 year with the potential loss of $60M that we use to subsidize Special Education. This will be a major fix area for next year.

I'm writing to the Board because from what Special Ed parents say, there needs to be a magnifying-glass look at the spending. Many parents believe the money is not being properly spent or lacks oversight of outcomes from that spending.  The Board needs to listen to those parents.


Anonymous said…
It's horrific that SPS allows a picture of a know serial killer on a public school.

"Geronimo swore vengeance against Mexico and led a series of bloody raids on its soldiers and settlements. “I have killed many Mexicans,” he later wrote. “I do not know how many…some of them were not worth counting.” Many of his victims were innocent Mexican women and children.

There must be a better natives leader example to use instead of Geronimo.

Mex american
Anonymous said…
58% of families are DISSATISFIED with our public schools

That is horrifying!

That explains the 35% opt out rate of families in Seattle who are in independent schools, plus the additional hidden families who actually have opted out of Seattle altogether and choose to live in Shoreline, Kirkland, Bellevue, etc.

That should be a call to arms.

Can you imagine a restaurant, where people who have eaten a meal there report dissatisfaction? They have a choice so they're not heading back to eat there again, instead buy all other restaurant meals in one of the other restaurants probably within a mile of that one? That restaurant would go out of business FAST.

58% not satisfied: This is a really, really bad number. Since the survey self-selecting sample was largely white and Asian, and those SPS demographics are less free and reduced lunch, per OSPI, it is even more damning, because if they get up and exit, it means this district will further be a superconcentrator of poverty, and multiple studies show that high poverty schools do not provide good learning environment for all students within them, whether the students themselves are poor or not poor.

I know if I had a choice, I would be out of here fast, but we can't leave. And yes, I've donated lots of money as well as lots of hours for volunteering to support the system, none of it makes a dent.

None of this is going to change Nyland's behavior, or management, but I sure hope that the new members of the board will sit up and take notice. And start to say no to these staff who keep acting impervious to feedback. To wit, Spectrum program mattered, it mattered a lot to a lot of families, but it has been strangled by him killed off. Evidence shows ability based groups produces the most academic gains. But the adults in the room killed it for reasons other than pure academics. This is where we may agree to disagree. There are those of us who thinks school is for academics, others feel the priority needs to be on other non-academic things. So be it, but no we are waiting in the long grass hoping and trying to escape, and I know even though none of us neighbors talk about it, we are not alone in the long grass. And yes, I get that nobody cares about us. But, ask yourself, when does a trickle become a stream and the stream become a river? We have a horrifying, incompetent, incurious, dangerous President right now, so ignoring feedback has proven to be not the smart strategy: ignore a significant dissatisfied segment at one's own peril.

DISsatified, in Majority
Anonymous said…
We are planning to have a last child out of public schools for HS. We don't like what's happening in regard to so much emphasis on social justice. It's just not what we need to focus on. Education is the great equalizer and you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink, enough is enough.

Anonymous said…
Is it just me or does the Seattle Preschool Program seem to be a giant money pit? The cost per student is enormous. We taxed ourselves silly to make it happen, and now they need a Gates Foundation grant on top of that? Something seems fishy.

Anonymous said…
Trump is NOT responsible for the state of public education in Seattle.

Wake up
Anonymous said…
@ Lincoln-- I think people are blaming social justice issues on the schools. The real underlying issues of income inequality, poverty etc get lost. Our middle class has been shrinking in the US. An even larger achievement would exist if all the upper middle class & affluent private schools kids (30% in Seattle) were in the public schools.
Anonymous said…
- Meant to say an even larger achievement gap would exist.
Mex American, one man's killer is another man's freedom fighter. I'm not saying it was right but that's the view from a distance.

Wake up, stay on topic.

Jan, you're correct. What get left out of the achievement gap rate in SPS is precisely because SPS does very well with white students (for whatever reason).
Money Pit said…
The Seattle's prek program cost taxpayers $54M. The city will not be able to provide 2000 students with prek- as promised.

"To accommodate the higher payment structure, DEEL will adjust the program’s expansion targets. SPP was projected to reach 2,000 children by year four; DEEL has now adjusted this target to 1,615 children annually by the fourth year."

Amazing that the city's prek program needs more funding. Would love to see the Gates Grant.
Money Pit, the Memo stated that the grant would be brought forth at the C&I meeting (probably the one next week) so I'll try to get a link for that.
Anonymous said…
A pathway for IB?

Translation = barriers to entry to IB

Plus you're spot on, Melissa, about the funding for IB.

- Clueless
Anonymous said…
RBHS needs to be brought up to the same building standards the other high schools are before we even think about building a downtown high school. They are the only high school that hasn't been remodeled or rebuilt. If they want to increase the number of students there, they need to bring the facilities up to date.

Anonymous said…
Who is the Principal at RBHS? And whatever happened to the former Principal who went with great acclaim to work for Murray? What happened there?

- Just Curious
Anonymous said…
I just heard that Gates is donating billions to an (as of yet) undisclosed organization. Speculation is the Gates Foundation. Was daydreaming what even a small amount would do to help if donated instead directly to SPS right now. We have a city & state that is booming with affluence, yet the SPS public schools are talking about a funding gap (levy swap) that might cut special ed, close schools etc. Not being able to utilize local levy funding, yet a forecast of not receiving enough from the state after levy swap. Frustrating.
Just Curious, Kevin Smith is the principal at RBHS. Very qualified, super nice. Dwane Chappelle was the former principal who now heads the City's Department of Education and Early Learning. Not sure about how he's doing there.

Whitesail said…
Seriously, 54 million dollars to serve 2000 preschoolers and it's not enough? $27,000 per student, that is almost equal to the amount I pay for my college student's full time out of state tuition AND housing combined. REALLY tired of hearing "we just need more money." Let's see evidence you can spend what you have wisely and then maybe we can talk.

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