Sunday, October 29, 2017

Work Session on October 25, 2017: Budget and SAP

As previously reported, this week's Work Session had a couple of parts and, within each part, several sections.  Here's the agenda and the Budget info is at the beginning of the documentation.

I do want to know that staff gave a presentation on Advanced Learning that, while some of it was buried in the agenda documentation, was NOT on the agenda.  I call foul on this as well as some of what was presented (but that's a different thread).
The first discussion was around reviewing programs/operations of programs.  There is a list of 61, which staff stated was not necessarily complete nor in any particular order.  They say these are the ones "which we have received questions about."  They say they have completed the ones on the left side in green but only in draft form.  Staff frames these as "2-pagers."  Budget's JoLynn Berge said the goal is "to do 40." 

However, no one asked but I will - why is every single Option school listed?   Director Geary questioned why Decataur wasn't there and Peters asked why Cascadia was there but not Thurgood Marshall.

Director Blanford stated that "this kind of work probably needs more than two pages in terms of who is in the program, direction, etc."  He said that not having enough quantitative versus qualitative information "can set us up to make bad decisions" and "could set us up to end programs for underserved kids."

Staff members Eric Anderson and JoLynn Berge pushed back on that, worrying about overtaxing staff.

I'll pause here to take this in.  The School Board is attempting to gain understanding from staff about the many and varied programs that the district has.  It sounds a bit like staff wants a cursory document (akin to the very useful CSIPs) for each program.  I would think each program already has documentation on who they are, what they do, who they serve and how it's funded.  Why is this considered difficult?

Director Pinkham asked if the African-American initiative is part of this list versus the Native American program (which is on the list).  Berge said the NA program received federal dollars and is an actual program.  I can see that but I think the better answer would have been that when it is a program, that it will be clearly explained.

I was surprised to hear Director Burke call out how he liked the chart on page 11 which categorizes "Special Programs for Review."  I found it confusing myself.  But Burke was right; these are "tight descriptions."

Staff is asking for "prioritization" from the Board.

Page 13 - which is an example page which uses stats on academic outcomes at K-8s versus elementary/middle schools - got a call out from President Peters.  She said the optics of using an example which seems to show that K-8s do worse than regular schools. (and Eric Anderson seem to say, yes, they do worse).  Director Harris then interjected that she would like to see this with opt-out numbers (meaning looking at how many kids start in K-8s and then leave).  "Principals are not accountable for parent choices."

I'll again step in and comment that what would be interesting - given that staff had wanted an SAP that punished parents for making a choice for an Option school - is to see the stats of how many people start at one school and leave for another school in the district in a year or so.  What is the movement from school to school?  Do we lose a lot of K-8 kids in 6th grade?  Do dual-language schools see a lot of movement?  I've never seen that data.

Then they moved on to the next Budget section which is WSS Committee.  This committee is made up of principals and Central Office staff.  You can see the "draft proposals" on page 18 and these caused much discussion.  The two that are the most likely to move forward are "K-3 staffing levels" and "improvements to the staffing model."

Here's a fun fact that I didn't know:  How much money is attached to each kid from the State for staffing.  I confess that JoLynn Berge and Linda Sebring (both in Budget) used a different phrasing for these dollars.  I thought Berge said "FTE" and I thought Sebring said, "Supplies" - I will ask what was the specific phrase. But it was stated these dollars could be used to buy staffing.

$    93.50 for elementary
$  193.50 for middle
$  593.50 for high school

For F/RL:

Kindergarten/one - $213.85
Second/Third -       $243.00
Fourth/Fifth -         $309.00
Sixth/Eighth -         $535.00
9-12                        $584.00

(I will double-check these figures - they were flying out fast and furious.)

Pinkham came in saying that he wanted to see where the money is going TO and it should be going to "white classes" because it would be a wrong use of equity funds.  Berge said they are going to trying to start collecting that data this year.  (My notes reflect "What?! - they don't know already.)

Sebring noted that the poverty level is decreasing in the city (likely because poor people cannot afford to live here) and so is the district's (although it is higher than the City's).

Director Pinkham interjected here on another item in the list - "Rename Free and Reduced Lunch allocations to "Equity allocation."  He said it's such a broad term that it could confuse people.  Berge said that it may include F/RL but it's about the opportunity gaps for some students.

Berge also mentioned another item in the list - "inflate equity allocation annually" saying they hadn't been doing that.  She said the State had been doing it but not the district but did not offer a reason.

On the "improvements to the staffing model," it was noted that there is no increase in staffing from schools with 1000 kids or 1600 kids.

Harris drily noted that they also need to show where these dollars would come from because if there are not new ones, then something else will be cut.

She also asked, following up on a query from Director Geary, if there are Sped staff on the WSS Committee as well as executive directors?  Berge said the committee was just for GenEd and that Sped/ELL are different funding determinations.  She said ex directors are represented by Associate Superintendent Michael Tolley.

There was also a discussion of page 20 "State Prototypical Funding Compared to Allocations for 2017-2018 - General Ed Only (FTE Staff Units)." This is the chart I mentioned in another thread that shows wide disparities in what the state's prototypical numbers are for categories like teachers, principals, librarians, nurses, etc.  Director Harris called out the State's meager 9 nurses to the 50 that the district employs.  For the life of me, I cannot even understand how the State could say, for a district Seattle's size, that 9 nurses would cover it.  (Maybe they count the nurses provided at schools thru the Families&Education levy?)

It was pointed out to me by long-time reader/district activist, Eric B., that the chart does not include any central office staff.  Why that wasn't included is a mystery.

Michael Tolley stated that they have many more assistant principals because all the teachers needed to have evaluations done and it was the district's goal to provide them with those in order to support their teaching and learning.  

Burke also stated that the State gives SPS about $54K to fund a teacher but, as page 21 shows, on average, we pay $32,000 per FTE more than the state allocates in funding in 2017-2018.  That would make the average teacher's salary about $86K.  But she then stated that it costs $108K to fully fund an FTE teacher.  That seems high to me for an average teacher's salary.

Economic Stabilization Fund Discussion

Basically, the Board has a policy on having a rainy day fund.  It is supposed to be between 3-5% of the "actual general fund expenditures of the most recently completed fiscal year."  The district had asked the Board to borrow out of the fund in the last school year because of budget deficits.  The Board agree and $11.5M was taken out of the fund.

Linda Sebring of Budget told the Board that staff had done their best in asking for the dollars but now realized that they did not need it and want to return it to the ESF.  She said that they just were not sure of the State dollars until June 30th and "when you don't know, so we planned for the worst case scenario."  

Nielsen chimed in that the "curtailments came from Central and teacher vacancies."  

I will again point out that the shifting sands of various pots of money in the district always makes me nervous. 

What is unclear to me if this is an "all at once" repayment or per the schedule on page 26 where it would be paid off by 2022-2023 school year.

The issue is whether the Board would okay this immediately or at a later date.  The Board agreed to immediately and voted in unison to do so.

Student Assignment Plan

I'll have to say that I thought this idea of taking the Transition Plan, stamping it "SAP" and moving on was doomed from the start of the presentation by Enrollment's Ashley Davies.  The staff used a PowerPoint that do not believe was handed out to the public but I'll try to find it.

She first tried to say that no, all the changes to the 2009 SAP document were not in the BAR that covers this change.

President Peters said, well, then if we don't see elements of the 2009 SAP, then we assume those guidelines no longer apply?

Davies said that the much of the information "lives in other documents."  And, that there was an "extensive glossary" at the district website.

Peters went on, saying that things can get lost that way and make them harder to trace.  "If you could show us the original SAP and redline all that is taken out" that would be helpful.

Bullseye!  Would that be so hard?  Of course not but then everyone would clearly see what IS being struck out and that no, not all of it is in policy/procedures or other documents.

Davies answered, "I could do that but essentially that's what the memo does - explain each section."  That is not true.  It does not cover all omitted items.  She said there was "general language" that is not policy.  Well, that might be true but much of that general language does set the tone for the SAP and I believe should stay there.  Things like what the considerations are when creating an SAP.

She continued, "This is an effort of the district to simplify and clarify and not a means to take away or not be clear about policies that exist.  Our only intention is to make things more clear.  I would love if the Board isn't ready now and we can continue that discussion to make everyone comfortable."

Even Director Blanford stated that there is "a need for granularity and this is a high level document." 

Burke stated he was uncomfortable with removing "Transition" and there is a lot of "rich content" in the 2009 SAP that isn't here.  He also noted that in 2009 the new Facilities policy speaks of  allowing for changes and "procedures for when boundaries need to be considered."

Harris spoke of "extreme community feedback" that she had been hearing.  She said folks are unhappy with all the changes with BEX and high school and it may be better to do this work next year.  She also expressed discomfort with sending parents to read superintendent policies for more information as staff has directed.

Blanford then asked Davies if she wanted to continue on, given the tenor of the Board's comments.  She said could continue if she thought the Board might think differently.

Flip Herdon weighed in, saying that "ultimately there are a lot of transitions happening and 2019-2020 is where those changes land."  

Peters stated that she did not like the transfer policy with students who enroll in Option schools lose the ability to go back to their attendance area school.  She noted that, for example, there were specific circumstances with QAE and Hay because of  the rebuild for QAE.

She also said about Madrona Elementary and Stevens Elementary, what should happen is to fix the issues for schools that show underenrollment but the programs look strong.

Davies seemed to think the idea of not allowing students at Option schools back to their neighborhood schools unless there is room would only affect a "minimal number of schools."  And if she's wrong?

Director Geary also pointed out that the phrase "extreme capacity" was being used and that is not part of the policy.  She said an "emergency designation" does not have to be part of the policy but to be used when the situation arises.  Meaning, an emergency procedure that can be part of the superintendent's procedure.

Director Blanford had a couple of interesting comments.  He said there hadn't been enough conversation for stability and predictability in schools.  You might think he meant families but he went on, saying " a blog post" could move issues.  Principals would say families make choices and we want to keep them unless there is space available and I land there as well."

Harris weighed in saying that "kids are not widgets" and that "we promised a quality neighborhood school" everywhere and parents should have the ability to access that.

Pinkham spoke up about one footnote - number 3 in the proposed Transition SAP - about ending waitlist additions on May 31st but the waitlist would remain until August 31st.  He said it sound like it was written for Licton Springs.  Geary didn't think the footnote is clear and Burke said he was "uncomfortable with governing by footnote."  

Harris said that they should not repeat what happened last year "making choices not based on policy but practice."  She said that Footnote 4 nearly killed Middle College last year.

Peters then noted that staffing is driven by number of students so how could staffing come before student enrollment?  Davies agreed but pointed out that buildings get a certain number of staff and "schools create configurations."  

So it's important to know that your school's principal and BLT make decisions on staffing that you might have thought were made at the district level.

Geary stated that she wanted to see different language to address Sped family needs and not put them in "double jeopardy and hoping they would be allowed to get 'lockdown enrollment' before Open Enrollment."  

She also said she wanted to see Sped students - if placed outside their neighborhood school because of services - then be able to choose whether to follow the neighborhood pathway OR stay with cohort at current school and follow that pathway.

 She said she asked for this and if she doesn't see it, she will bring an amendment forward.

Peters concurred, saying that it was one thing community wanted assurances as for other families.

Wyeth Jesse said the plan was to add the language that Geary had requested.

Pinkham then noted that he saw Sped, ELL and Advanced Learning but "what about kids with cultural needs like Native Americans?"

There was also discussion around aligning HCC and dual language programs in terms of deciding to enroll in them.  It may mean that notification of eligibility may be moved up.

Patu tried to ask about dual language schools and who has the ability to get in.  Davies kind of skirted this question by noting the locations and that they are Option Schools in the north end.  What she left out is that there are very few seats at any of these schools if you don't live in the neighborhood.

Harris asked Jesse about the dual-language pathway to international schools and noted that only two (2!) students entered the Chief Sealth pathway from Mercer.

Then Director Geary asked about making a comment but then said she would wait until the end.

Then came the Advanced Learning Review which I did not stay for in its entirety and missed Geary's remarks which, according to those there, were notable.  I will try to get access to the recording to give a full report. 


Cynical Parent said...

Last year our neighborhood had an issue with how our attendance area school had a split pathway to middle school.

We raised this first with Ms. Davies, and was told it was "an oversight". The board then asked her twice about this during board meetings, and she replied that "she did not have the answer and would get back to the board."

The third time the board raised this issue, the reply was, "it's too late to do anything about it this year."

We were a small group but had the unanimous support of the affected parents. We raised the issue, but because we were a small group, the administration first said we were an oversight, then twice said they didn't have answers, and finally said it was too late, even though we had been raising the issue for 4 years.

I would encourage the community to fight for every single detail and footnote that is in the SAP and transition plan. The school board is the only true power the community has to participate in district decisions that affect our students.

I'm not saying the district administration doesn't care. But they change people. They forget promises. They "have oversights" and "run out of time". They are good people. But a lot of good people make bad decisions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks CP. That is it in a nutshell... Divide and conquer. Repeat. That has been my experience with Michael Tolley.

Thanks MW, not sure I understand this but what I think I read is that brown people deserve FRL money but not poor white people? He said that, really? That takes a ton of ignorance.


Melissa Westbrook said...

GIGO, it is unclear to me if Pinkham meant the white class of people or classes with mostly white students in them. I perceive it to be the latter.

But yes, believing that every white student in this district comes from a family with money is an odd thing to believe.

Anonymous said...



Eric B said...

The difference between actual teacher salaries and the $100-$108K "cost per teacher" is in benefits, SPS' share of taxes, etc. I'm pretty sure the average teacher isn't making $80K, but that wouldn't be hard to check.

When staff were talking about the FRL allocation, I heard that it could be for just about anything the principal wanted to use it for--staff, supplies, etc.

Anonymous said...

Aren't class sizes supposed to be lower at high F/RL schools?


Anonymous said...

Yes. Well, the targets at those schools are lower (which should translate to lower class sizes, but does not in every instance). This is a separate pot of money.


Anonymous said...

Any more information on HCC portion of the meeting? Eager to hear what was said on that.

-Cascadia mom

Seattle Citizen said...

A teachers with 15 years and a masters could cost the district $120,000 per year.

Here is what a person earns with at least fifteen years (maximum rate - no increases after 15 years) and masters degree plus college credit(a couple lanes shy of max – could earn more credit and/or PhD for another $5000 – 10,000 or so)
Salaried Pay 5,476.80
TRI per diem 182.60
TRI Respo contract 2,383.70
TRI Stipend Deferral 427.54-
TOTAL: 7,615.56
Fed Withholding 1,063.18 (this comes out of salaried pay, above, not SPS)
Fed OASDI/EE 455.37 (I believe SPS pays this)
Fed MED/EE 106.50 (I believe SPS pays this)
TOTAL: 1,625.05
EE GTLI Taxable 21.07 - don't know what this is
KP Access HDHP ER 471.57 - healthcare
Incent Dental ER 96.00
Vision ER 11.00
Basic Life ER 34.27
TRS3 ER-Person 1,157.57 - retirement contribution
Ind. Insurance ER, 6.93 - workperson's compensation
Total: 1,798.41

Totals: 7,600 + 555 + 1,800 = almost $10,000 per month x 12 = $120,000

Anonymous said...

Since 73% of the district's teachers have at least a Masters degree (per OSPI) then by your calculations 73% of the district's teachers are making $120,000.


Eric B said...

OK, so $7600/month pay before withholding is about $91K. That's pretty close to the district average of $86K above. And the total cost is pretty close to the $108K above.

Parent, that is pay and benefits and is if they have 15 years in the system (don't know if experience at other WA districts counts or not). Many do have that time, many don't. I don't think it's so bad to pay a professional with 15 years of experience like a professional with 15 years of experience.

Anonymous said...

All this shows what lack of transparency means in a community. Vague and unclear explanations. Lack of relevant statistics or evidence for decision making. Lack of clear tradeoffs (if we do X, we will not do Y.)

SPS should have a clear budget document that shows what OUR money gets spent on in this district. Labor always consumes the lion's share of K-12 dollars, that's not unique to Seattle.

Unfortunately, what IS unique to Seattle is the incredible slowness of the HR department so that we are last in line when it comes to hiring teachers in the region. Every year we are the last to offer contracts so the best candidates go elsewhere (Eastside etc.)

--Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Eric B. - I agree, I don't believe it is unreasonable to pay teachers like the professionals they are. Especially since they hold the district together in the face of a barrage of poor decisions from the central office. I just wish the district would hire the number of FTEs that are REQUIRED to handle the student numbers.


Rich said...

For a family of four, $90,000 is not a lot. You actually qualify for CHIP (if that program still existed) on $72,000 here. On $120,000 per year, you can live comfortably but not exorbitantly in Seattle.

Another View said...


There is a teacher shortage. The district hasn't been able to fill all teacher positions. Failure to fund teachers may be the result of a teacher shortage.

Anonymous said...

@Rich - What is CHIP?


Anonymous said...

I found the Certificated pay scale on National Council for Teacher Quality's site: https://www.nctq.org/docs/Seattle_cert_non_supervisory_cn1_2016_17.pdf The highest paid is 14 years with a PhD at $94k

Anonymous said...

wondering .... Children's Health Insurance Program. were you just asking to see if rich knew? otherwise the answer really all started back in the mid 90's called a search engine.

no caps

WSmom said...

Wouldn't Director Harris comment about looking at Opt-outs be referring to standardized testing opt-outs vs kids who leave the school in middle grades?

My kids are at a K8 and we do lose a few in 6th grade to other schools but we also gain a few.

I will say on the opt-outs in reference to testing our school has a decent number of them which since they all count as zero make our school look like academically we do not fair that well.

Anonymous said...

wsmom why k8? i know that in the past it was a way to escape ms morasse. is that still true or did you see other benefits? i think k/1-8 for hcc or language immersion. but for tops?!?!? doesn't make sense. how much can you hammer home empathy?

no caps

Anonymous said...

Why K-8? Some people don't like the middle school system of pooling all the hormonal kids into one school. K-8 allows for some balance between the ages. My kids went to a private K-8 and was a great experience.


Anonymous said...

A K-8 school can provide a lot of stability for families and kids.

Unknown said...

school can provide a lot of stability for families and kids.check status