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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Seattle School Board Meeting, January 17, 2018

Once again, there was a marathon Board meeting; I stopped at 6 hours. 

This really needs to be stopped and there need to be some measures to curtail them.  The Board members openly admit to being exhausted (for me, this generally kicks in around hour four and I was watching from home), staff has been at JSCEE for 12+ hours and, of course, most of the public cannot participate that long.

When you can be an hour into a meeting and no real work has been done, you are off the rails.  All minutes become hours.

My suggestions are:

-Limit superintendent remarks to 10 minutes.  The Superintendent is welcome to note a couple of events/newsworthy items and then refer the Board and the public to his online newsletter (a copy of which should be made available in every school's office).

I note that in the agenda, the Superintendent has 10 minutes but he consistently goes way over that.

- The Board should not end student performances; indeed, they are usually the highlight of the meeting.  But I think that the practice of handing the mic to every student to state their name and grade needs to end. 

- I also think that the Board should not wait until its photo time when there celebrations of staff/student accomplishments.  After the opening of the meeting, they should seat themselves in the front row so they will be ready for photos. 

- The Board has already cut down public testimony from 3 to 2 minutes and I feel most speakers get themselves up there in a timely fashion.  I do appreciate that the rules about public testimony are repeated at every meeting.

- Another issue is the length of Board comments.  The problem is they have basic items they want to say - a lot of thank-yous to students and staff - plus upcoming community meetings (which are available online) and then answering some issues raised during community testimony.

I am so glad that a previous Board decided that it was important to address public testimony, either themselves or later when a specific BAR comes up, and this Board is continuing that practice.  I would suggest that if a student group or staff recognition has happened and those people thanked, that it doesn't have to be done again, by each director, in their comments.

- It is unclear to me if the Board reads all the BARs.  If not, I wish they would because there is a lot of info in the BARs and it would cut down on obvious questions.  There is one director who generally seems less prepared than others.  (Either that or this person deliberately wants to obfuscate which I don't think is the case but hard to tell.)

- There is also one director who consistently says, "I don't want to talk too long" and then does just that.  As well, this director thinks every comment should be a speech.  Not necessary.

- President Harris is doing a great job in keeping things moving with regular checks on time and keeping her own comments at the end and in brief. 

- I think it should be optional for any discussion about passage of an item from a committee to the full Board unless there are real issues.  An item can be passed forward either for consideration or for a vote; any items for consideration are the ones that need a full airing.

- That said, the BARs do not always contain complete information, thus having Directors needing to ask some pretty basic questions.  For example, there was a BAR for the purchase of more portables and yet no clear idea where they were to go.  That's a fairly basic element to leave out.

Another example was the very high cost (that went up) for the services needed for a Special Education student at about $390K.  Well, guess what came out at the meeting but was not in the BAR?  The district can ask the State for reimbursement over $30K and usually gets it.  That would have been helped to have stated in the BAR.

- As Charlie has pointed out in the past, a LOT of the agenda is capital spending issues.  It is important to know how those dollars are spent and for the public to be able to weigh in those items but it seems that clever minds would figure out a better way to handle these items.

1 comment:

Doctor Hu said...

"If there is a transition time of two years before this is fully actualized, why are Chief Sealth and Rainier Beach, both accredited IB schools and both serving a vast majority of students of color, not included on the pathway list now? There is an obvious racial injustice in leaving these two schools off the list ready to be guaranteed pathways now. They are accredited by IB international, the staff has worked incredibly hard to have robust offerings there, not including them would be unacceptable to us." SPS School Board Meeting, January 17, 2018, Part 1 @ 1 hr, 59 minutes.

Jeff Clark, Principal of Denny International Middle School, speaking for the Principals Association of Seattle Public Schools regarding planned localized high school HC pathways, based on feedback from the entire principals' corps, which was also represented by its president, Principal Paula Montgomery.

Amen.