Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Catching Up On District Meetings - Work Session on Strategic Plan

Update 2:

From my letter to the Board and the Superintendent:
I'm also wondering about Manuela Slye who is now on two committees -- Equity and Race plus this one AND on the International Schools/Dual Language Immersion Task Force. There is no other Latino/Latina person?  Because it seems unfair that one person is on so many committees (plus it must be a lot of work for her).

What's odd is that there are no attached bio info on anyone. To have a committee that will be part of charting the future course for the district and there's no info on them is not right.
end of update
Update: a link to the presentation and a link to the minutes.

end of update

The first meeting to catch up on was a Work Session on October 29th which was a presentation by District Management Group (DMG), the consulting firm that will be directing the work for a new strategic plan under Superintendent Juneau.  All the Board members were present except for Director DeWolf and Director Patu.  Juneau noted this would be the first of several Work Sessions on this topic.  (There is no link to the presentation materials but I have requested one.)
The two DMG folks leading this effort are David James and Hosanna Mahaley.  They have worked with all sizes/types of districts across the nation.

I was somewhat thrilled with the first slide which talked about DMG's beliefs:

We believe that a district must focus on meeting all three of these objectives to achieve lasting results for students: Resource Allocation and Operational Efficiency to provide Student Outcomes.

Really glad that Operations is in focus because if your district does run well operationally, it won't be a successful district.

DMG stated that it is a 5-6 month long process "that will entail a needs assessment and then development of a plan."  In developing that plan:
  • Refine long-term aspirational goals for SPS 
  • Draft a theory of action about what it takes to raise achievement and make your vision a reality
  • Develop district priorities in line with the drafted theory of action
  • Finalize specific and measurable targets related to district priorities (measurable goals)
  • Incorporate community feedback into the drafted plan
Then comes implementation:
  • Draft a detailed action plan with role/responsibilities delineated, establish timelines, determine plan to track/monitor progress
  • Create templates/framework for schools to create school-level improvement plans in accordance with strategic plan
  • develop management dashboard to track/monitor progress on each goal/objective 
There is an SPS Steering Committee of 16 people. About two-thirds of the membership is JSCEE staff or leadership plus PTSA, Director Jill Geary and a couple of community members.  (I see yet another Children's Alliance person; I have to wonder how this group is somehow getting their staff on SPS committees.  Hmm.)  There is no chair of the committee.

Director Mack questioned why there was no one on the committee from the Sped PTSA.  Geary said the committee isn't "monolithic."  Director Pinkham was not happy with the Native American representation by PTSA President Chandra Hampson.  Director Harris pointed out that the last strategic plan was created by a committee of 60 people.

All of that leads me to note that no one suggested going back and looked at the last 20 years of plans and see what worked and what didn't.

A draft of the Strategic Plan was to go to Juneau on November 20th; I'll have to ask for that.  December 1st the Board is slated to give feedback; maybe at the Board retreat this Saturday?

The presentation had a page -  " Characteristics of a Well Crafted Priority List"- and Director Burke said that he felt like it might be brainstorming without a box to put those ideas into.

The presentation said the Committee had these draft thematic areas:

- community and family engagement
- equitable access and opportunity
- high-quality instruction
- human capital 
- systems and accountability

Directors also talked about including student voices and Director Mack said that the priority should be to make sure these are positive interactions.  Director Pinkham also suggested meeting people where they feel comfortable.  President Harris said that a feedback loop is important to show community the Board is listening to what community has to say.

 There was then a discussion about equitable access and, I think, PTA funding.  Director Geary said that she hopes to find a way to not discourage these contributions but find a way of "dispersing opportunity around our district."

Director Mack noted that increasing class sizes make the challenge of equity more difficult.

President Harris stated that there needed to be a district definition of equity.  She said the district needs to quit pitting communities against each other for limited resources and demonizing people with unique needs."

There was also discussion about a baseline for each school but Geary fretted that if the system is underfunded, things may be equal but not equitable.

Mack said, "Equity is all kids getting what they need."  She said there had to be additional supports and services for marginalized students.  Geary came back, "Get what they need to what end?"  She went on saying that the job of education is too open-ended and that the district needed to tailor the definition to where they want to get to.

Burke said that high quality instruction is the "core" of what has to be delivered.  Geary said students have to be "energized and education has to be relevant to them."

Mack agreed saying that education has to be accessible and engaging.  Burke then brought in a note of pragmatism to the discussion saying that the counterpoint to relevant and exciting is that all of life isn't that way.  He said it is important for students to build stamina and work ethic and pride in their work.  He said the components can be relevant and exciting.

On the issue of "human capital" (a term that I loathe), Geary said they needed to be mindful that the teaching force and staff are the huge part of the budget - the lion's share - and it moves around the district in a way not mindful of resources.

Harris said she would like to see equitable payment for teachers and IAs and how to figure that out without attacking the seniority system and getting more expert teachers in higher needs schools.

Both Harris and Pinkham voiced approval for more mentorships and internships.

There was a lot of talk about systems improvement.  Pinkham said that mistakes should not be brushed aside.

The district clearly needs a new blueprint for the work.   I think the dashboard additions were a good start but that needs to be more accessible and understandable.  I agree that tracking progress and holding people accountable for the lack thereof is key to having a living, breathing strategic plan.

I believe after the first of the year, DMG will have a series of community meetings (but I think just two so far) to ask the public for their input.

If you would like to give input, DMG's email is info@dmgroupK12.com.


Anonymous said...

By soliciting community input, SPS suggests that such input will impact decisions on policy and/or practice. As a parent, I'd much prefer SPS be transparent from the get-go: We are relying on our internal or external experts to make this decision. We will ask you, the community, for input. But really, your input is not going to drive how this decision gets made.

Helps to set expectations honestly. Too many parents I know are frustrated by serving on advisory committees whose conclusions are duly ignored by the district that asked for said advisory committee recommendations.

Concerned parent

Joseph Rockne said...

Why are strategic plans developed by committees? Shouldn’t the Superintendent have a vision for what she wants the district to look like? By doing it this way no one is really accountable.

Am I missing something?

so_tired said...

I'm in agreement with Concerned Parent that the district continues to be disingenuous about parent involvement. Community meetings, parent role in hiring of principals, meet and greets... all of this is just "check the box" on the part of the district. I have come to believe that participating in these charades is a waste of our time.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does it feel like they spend a lot of time developing strategic plans, SMART outcomes, etc. and very little time evaluating their success with implementation and outcomes?


Anonymous said...

I cringe every time I hear someone from downtown say " teaching force and staff are the huge part of the budget." I would like to rephrase that to say " teaching force and staff are the **most important** part of the budget." I feel like the 1st statement is used too often to justify cuts in teachers, electives, nurses, counselors, in the name of *efficiencies*, which is really just another way of justifying diverting money from the schools and increasing hiring downtown. Yes, there are people downtown doing fantastic jobs supporting the schools - but what really makes a difference to the students are their teachers and school staff. I wish SPS would acknowledge this rather than complain about how expensive they are. Most students would argue that the money spent is worth it!!!


Anonymous said...

Director Pinkham was not happy with the Native American representation by PTSA President Chandra Hampson.

I'm a tad curious why wouldn't Director Pinkham approve of Ms. Hampson?


Anonymous said...

Am I missing something? When did director Pinkham disapprove of Chandra Hampson "representation"? What are you talking about? I am very confused here,
And curious of course.


Grouchy Parent said...

At the work session on strategic planning on October 29.

Melissa Westbrook said...


Here are the paragraphs on your question from the minutes. I know I heard Director Pinkham mention Ms. Hampson's name. He did not elaborate but my impression is that he felt that since she already fulfilled the role of PTSA rep, that perhaps they could have found someone else to be a rep for Native American student interests. I did not mean to suggest any issue between Pinkham and Hampson as I do not know what their relationship is.

"Director Mack requested a list of the steering committee members with notations for those who are district staff and those who come from other organizations. Ms. Bennett
noted that a list with additional information will be provided and added that the community members are representing broader communities by which they were nominated, rather than specific organizations. Carri Campbell, Chief Engagement Officer, spoke to the linkage between the Superintendent’s Listening and Learning Tour and the development of the steering committee.

Director Pinkham asked how representation from the Native community was selected, and how it aligns with the timeline for the upcoming Native American Listening Session
on November 15. Ms. Campbell addressed the timing of the steering committee formation. Director Mack asked about representation from the special education community and whether other communities are missing. Superintendent Juneau spoke to the relationship between the steering committee membership and communities that were part of the Listening and Learning Tour. Director Geary noted that the steering committee is
mindful of the limitations of the representation and that no one member will be able to speak for an entire community.Director Harris addressed the prior strategic planning process and the limitations of an expansive representational structure."

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa. That makes so much more sense in context.


Equity Edward said...

I hope they mention "equity" at least 10 times.

Shocked parent said...

I see our horrible principal is on the Steering committee, WOW!
A principal that does not deal with bullying at his own school.
Who has a very poor understanding of special education and related laws.
A person who "talks to his staff" and influences what they share and not share with parents. A person who is an abrasive Know-it-all. After every open house, there is some parent that asks about him and his manners on community support groups.

Greatly disappointing, I would say. What good can this person bring to the District's future?

Carol Simmons said...

If S.P. committee members were chosen before the Listening Session was held for the Native Community, how was this resolved? Are there representative voices from all of the Native community on the committee?

Is there Special Education representation? How were Principals and District staff selected for membership on the steering committee? Are Principals who respond to community on the Steering committee? Are teachers from Social Equity Educators represented? Was the committee selection committee representative?

Jana said...

Carol, you asked great questions!

Selecting members of committee prior to the Listening session seems suspicious, at the very least. It does not seem representative enough and since 9 out of 16 people are staff (mostly District level) and some are former staff, it is highly concerning.
Who selected the members and how?

I see biggest issue in:
"Was the committee selection committee representative?"
It does not look like it. I see Advanced Learning is not represented, Special education is not (Should not be just District staff!), Independent advocacy group.... Probably many others I can't think of right now.

"Are Principals who respond to community on the Steering committee?"
Principals have been an ongoing issue in this District. Especially for special education students and their families. The one selected one principal that is on there especially. Administrators who do not understand special education and who's school is the opposite of diverse have no place to be making decisions that will affect masses.

"Are teachers from Social Equity Educators represented?"
I did not see any of them represented.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You could ask Director Geary; she's on the Committee. While I agree with Director Harris about not having an overly large committee, I think this is not a great deal of broad representation.

Carol Simmons said...

Well, yes, we could ask Director Geary, or we could just ignore the representation composition of the selection committee, or the representation of the committee members who were selected, or we could also ignore the numbers of committee members, or we could say the District won't listen to the committee members recommendations anyway......or now that it is obvious that many groups are not represented the District could reconfigure the committee and actively recruit representative groups. There are many members of the community who seem to be missing and they are also the ones we need.

Anonymous said...

Also on the Steering Committee is Michael Tolley who's leaving the district in a few weeks (that opens up an opportunity for someone better to replace him), the ubiquitous and highly political Erin Okuno (guest speaker at the recent WA charter school conference https://wacharters2018conference.sched.com/speaker/erin460 and political consultant for Stephan Blanford http://web.pdc.wa.gov/rptimg/default.aspx?batchnumber=100534961) who pretends to speak for all south end communities (is there nobody else from the sound end who can participate?), and Phyllis Campano of the SEA who tried to stop the board from doing a superintendent search and keep Nyland forever.

I agree this is certainly not a very representative group. The board should step up and make changes or additions. (Or disband it altogether --- like the district did to the latest AL task force....!)

Rigged Already?

Anonymous said...

I will let the district respond but I feel it is important to hear from me as well. My advocacy work goes beyond the SPS environment. I am an educator and had the privilege to receive the 2010 KCTS Exceptional Caregiver Award and in 2012 I was recognized by Univision/Allstate with the Latino Community Award. I have four children from Elementary to High School and from Special Education to Advance Learners.
I served on the DLI Task Force for two years and our work is done as far as presenting our recommendations to the Superintendent (Dr Nyland). I am a member of ERAC and contribute as much as my schedule allows.
Outside SPS I serve as an community advisor for Antioch University School of Education and I offer Positive Discipline training for Spanish Speaking parents. Are there any capable Latinos in my community to do the kind of work I do? Absolutely. I have a lot of colleagues currently working on equally important issues -health, immigration, environmental justice, the list goes on.
I devote my time and effort on advocating for education because I am a testament of education as a gateway to success. Being part of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee is both a privilege and a huge responsibility.
Let's not characterize my ability to sit in different committees or the inability of others to serve as "unfair". I do agree it is a lot of work for me but I am happy to follow my principals and advocate for the Latino community and encourage others to join me.
Manuela Slye

Anonymous said...

Principles, not principals.
Sorry for the autocorrect

Manuela Slye

Carol Simmons said...

Who selected the Strategic Plan committee members? What criteria was used? What happened to many others who were extremely qualified and knowledgeable about the Seattle Public Schools and the students, families and communities served. There are so many others who may have and should have been selected like Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au, Chris Jackins, Rita Green, Melissa Westbrook, Sarah Sense Wilson, William Maynard, Larry Matsuda, Cecelia, Frances, Charles Davis, John Bridge, Harriet Walden, Dora Taylor, Thomas Speer, Estella Ortega, Ted Howard, Kyle Kinoshita, and so many others who comment on the Community Forum and are sincerely engaged in the success of our District and totally committed to the success of all of our students, like DisAPPointed, Kellie, Robert Cruckshank and many many others. These folks could provide great insight, experience and expertise and perhaps even more important, balance to the committee. It is not too late.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ms. Slye, I in no way meant to slight you. But it was odd to see that you are already serving on other committees. You said this:

I am a member of ERAC and contribute as much as my schedule allows."

And yet you are on still another committee? I think this proves my point. Do you not think someone else in your community could serve?

Carol, I would prefer Mr. Kinoshit to Ms. Davies as I feel his role is far more important in considering a Strategic Plan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry, Kinoshita.

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