From the Executive Committee Meeting on May 22, 2019

I have frequently said that the real business of the district happens in Board committee meetings and Work Sessions.  So it was last week at the Executive Committee meeting.  (I truly hope there is someone out there who hears me when I say, someone should be covering these meetings.  The minutes are better than they were years ago but they don't cover all the nuance or detail that someone being there can.)

President Leslie Harris chairs the committee, with Zachary DeWolf and Rick Burke as members.  Director Burke was calling in from China (where he was for business) with Director Eden Mack also on the phone. 

Agenda discussion (partial)

The Superintendent's evaluation is in process.  The Superintendent said that legal counsel John Cerqui "reminded" her that there was a $15,000 bonus clause in her contract for creating and passing a new Strategic Plan.  There wasn't a lot of discussion about this one.

However, there was an earlier Work Session on the evaluation and somehow, apparently "effective management" was not in there.  Harris said she wants an "effective operations goal" with the district having a $1B budget and issues that are "compelling."   Juneau said okay but wasn't sure the Board had a consensus of what "efficient, effective management looks like." DeWolf echoed her and asked "What would that look like?" 

I'll interject here and say it's 2019 - are we still honestly unsure what effective management would look like in Seattle Public Schools?

Harris said she wasn't sure but having some matrices would help.  She said there was a lot "of flak" from taxpayers and communities over spending issues with worrying headlines.  She mentioned the SMART goals of the past and that this is now a big departure.

Juneau countered, saying that there was a draft at the Work Session but "it was subjective because of differing views."  She said the new Strategic Plan incorporates effective management throughout.  Juneau seemed to be pushing back but I don't know if she was irritated that this had not been hashed out at the Work Session or if she truly believes the Strategic Plan - in all its slightness - covers "effective management."  She said "If you want another goal, I need direction on what to include."

Both Mack and Burke seemed to be in agreement that they did not hear what Juneau says she heard at the Work Session.  Burke mentioned how to "goalify" effective management.  Harris mentioned not recording Work Sessions but I assume there are minutes.  Juneau seemed not happy at this discussion. 

One item of note is the influence of Juneau's aide, Sherri Kokx, who seems to be taking a bigger role than I have ever seen from a superintendent aide.

The discussion was left with Harris saying they would add a management goal and redo the operations scorecard/dashboard.

There was a brief discussion of the other item up for an Action vote at this week's Board meeting (besides the Science adoptions) and that is a purchase of new fleet vehicles.   The amount is $575,000 with some of the purchase thru the Capital fund and some thru the General Fund.  It's curious because Deputy Superintendent Steve Nielsen said that the dollars had been in last year's budget but they had waited to see what would happen in the Legislature.  I'm surprised that - in light of the massive cuts to many high schools - that they would be using General Fund dollars for new vehicles.

There was one laugh when Erin Bennett, who was going over the agendas for the next two Board meetings, was talking about the one this week and asked, "Anything to move to the Consent agenda?" and the Superintendent quickly said, "The Science adoption."  

Bennett noted that there are 29 Intro items on the agenda but Harris said they only had one meeting this year that went past 9 pm (which really is good, considering past years). 

One Intro item is a new dress code.  Harris said she wants to have engagement with students but that it didn't get to the Superintendent's Advisory group.  She noted the "ticklish" issue of the couple of schools that have uniforms including K-8 STEM at Boren and Madrona.

I also noted a number of roof repairs and asked that the items be clarified whether it is the entire roof or partial.  Taxpayers often get told roofs are repaired but are rarely told that it's only a partial repair.

It was noted by Clover Codd of HR that the principals' contract via their organization, PASS, was coming up for Intro/Action.  I still say I don't like that these contracts get rushed thru and the principals seem to keep their contract very much on the downlow.

Then it was time for the SEA reps, Phyllis Campano and Michael Tamayo.  There was also another woman who I believe was Marquita Prinzing, who is part of SEA's Center for Racial Equity (she spoke in a low voice so I could not be sure if that was who it was). 

First up, the SEA wanted to know the process to find a replacement for Director Patu who announced her early retirement at the last Board meeting.  Her last day will be July 1.  It was pointed out that it needs to be transparent with community involvement.  (When a Board member steps down or dies in office, the Board is the entity charged with finding a replacement until the next election cycle for that position.)

Harris said they are working with the Legal team and hope to have a draft of timelines in a week or so.  She said they would probably open the process in three weeks with applications from candidates including questions the Board submits to the candidates.  All that will be uploaded - with candidate answers to those questions as well as their application - to the district website.  Only people residing in Director Patu's SE region may apply. 

Harris said that would allow time for public and community input and then have a couple of public meetings to meet candidates.  The SEA reps said they wanted to give input on the questions and DeWolf concurred.  Campano said there was widespread unhappiness with the superintendent search and input from communities.  She also said "the community will reach out to you soon" but I'm not sure I understood what community she meant.

SEA reps then moved onto the Science adoptions and said that they supported the process and the recommendation.  They were critical of the amendment offered by Burke.  They said it should be what "the community and members want."  She said communities of color feel they are not being heard.

President Harris pointed out that the amendment was not offered just by Burke but in conjunction with Director Scott Pinkham. 

I'll note this ongoing meme of singling out Director Burke for the amendment and somehow forgetting Pinkham.  I'm thinking that making it sound like Burke, who is white, did this on his own then allows some to say that he isn't listening to communities of color when, in fact, Pinkham, who is Native American, does represent a community of color.

Ms. Prinzing said that the district has a history of communities feeling unheard.  She said concerns about equity can be addressed with the Amplify curriculum.  Mr. Temayo said that this happened before with the math adoption and "it's unclear whose interests are being put forward" and "who is the Board serving?"  

He said this in three different ways.  I can only state that the Board must serve the taxpayers in their one and only role in curriculum adoptions which is oversight. 

Harris said there is "a lot of noise out there" and it was hard to sift thru the layers of information.  She also said she had heard of teachers facing retaliation for not supporting the adoption.  Ms. Campano waved that off and said she only heard of one teacher.  Harris said that was not what she heard from teachers.

Ms. Prinzing brought up the issue of PTA fundraising.  As I have said, I'll address that issue in a separate thread but again, the DISTRICT could stop all that and they choose not to.  Saying it's the PTAs' fault is wrong when the district allows it. 

She said the district could fight the PTA funding by "reprioritizing funding or redistributing it."  It sounded like if your school had the ability to raise funds to get the proper curriculum materials, then your school should get fewer funds than schools that don't have that ability.

Campano then said the startling admission that "my understanding about Amplify is the need to make it more hands-on."  

There was some discussion on kicking the ball on that kind of policy down the road AFTER the adoption (this from Juneau). 

Harris said she is not taking on the PTA issue now and Prinzing said the Board could address that later.

I like all this "in the future" talk after the adoption passes.  The devil is in the details and boy, I won't miss hearing all that messy discussion.

Burke chimed in and said that he did not see the "rich discussion" that the Board was having at Work Sessions and the last Board meeting on the Science adoptions as the Board "mistrusting or diminishing the work of the committees."  

A race and equity event the previous weekend, lead by students, was praised by Ms. Prinzing with President Harris saying it was "amazing."  The students led the discussions with adults just listening.  Director DeWolf asked if any educators had any "adultism" training.  Ms. Prinzing said no, there was no funding for that.

Campano said the SEA wanted the Burke amendment withdrawn. Harris (again) reminded her that it was the Pinkham/Burke amendment and that Director Pinkham was not present to address her request.  Harris then asked Burke if he had heard Ms. Campano's statement.  He said, "Yup." 

There was then a discussion about the Annual Report on Ensuring Educational And Racial Equity. (Dr. Brent Jones, head of the department, is leaving and that Dr. Keisha Scarlett is replacing him.)  It was an interesting report with many good examples of the work being done.

President Harris complimented the team on the great work but asked about including the costs.

The report was focused around specific initiatives and what was the first one?  The Science adoptions.  It also noted the Ethnic Studies Curriculum development and adoption.  I found this one a bit puzzling because it had a list of educator PD and engagement and said those "opportunities this year have been tremendous."  I'm confused because the head of Ethnic Studies had previously complained to C&I that principals were not going to sessions or returning calls.

Another one was the BLT (Building Leadership Teams) trainings.  I found this one hard to fathom because three years ago a parent, Anne Donovan, did a deep dive into BLTs.  As I recall, every school didn't have one.  Most of the membership was decided by principals who largely pick PTA board members or, as a few did, had no parent reps at all. 

Scarlett said that many were "still upholding the status quo" and "some families are wondering how to get access." DeWolf said that was white supremacy.  I challenged the idea that all 102 schools have functioning BLTs with bylaws and access to the team by any parent. DeWolf said he didn't think that was true that principals controlled who is on their school's BLT.  Anyone?

Then there was big news - the Technology Access Foundation is interested in bringing their STEM program to a middle schools in SPS by Fall 2020TAF has an academy in Federal Way that is doing fantastic work with STEM and students of color.  If anyone can do this well, it's TAF.  (I note they wanted to come in when Cleveland STEM was being created and the district said no.  Big mistake.) 

BUT this means a regular attendance middle school would take this on - it would not be an Option School.  That's the first thing.

Because TAF is dedicated to bringing STEM to students of color, it is likely to be a middle school in the SE, Central or SW regions.

The other issue is that of the HCC population which TAF would not want to separate out.  I have a feeling that if TAF is operating at the rigor it appears to be at, that won't be a problem.

Ms. Scarlett starting talking about the HCC issue at Washington and how that might play.  Harris stopped her and said, for the record, no school had been chosen so it wasn't a good idea to name a school.

What was odd is there was discussion around "not telling people widely."  Well, I was there so nix to that. 


Anonymous said…
Why is SEA so supportive of online curriculum? Do they not understand it is being pushed by a bunch of corporate billionaires who want to pay teachers poorly and have their role be reduced to less skilled laborers who push "play" on a program? Amplify Science and things like it are specifically and deliberately designed to undermine teachers and their unions. One really has to wonder if SEA has any idea about the precedent they're setting here or the forces they are unleashing.

Representing said…
"making it sound like Burke, who is white, did this on his own then allows some to say that he isn't listening to communities of color when, in fact, Pinkham, who is Native American, does represent a community of color."

I agree with you on this, that there has been a concerted, shameful attempt not to SEE director Pinkham.

But I disagree with your suggestion that director Pinkham represents a community of color and that director Burke does not. They are not on the board to represent their mothers! They represent their constituents and all the students of the district. Burke and Pinkham don't only represent male students (they're men!). If my child is Japanese American, does that mean no one is representing her? It better not.

Thanks for the write up on the meeting!
Anonymous said…
@Melissa, do you have any further information on the discussion re: TAF? You wrote:

...the Technology Access Foundation is interested in bringing their STEM program to a middle schools in SPS by Fall 2020. TAF has an academy in Federal Way that is doing fantastic work with STEM and students of color. If anyone can do this well, it's TAF.

I checked the TAF website to see exactly they'd be bringing--and what results they've been getting--but my guess is that what they're talking about brining is their school transformation method, not the actual academy. From their website, it looks like even more teacher training/coaching/professional development. I guess the chosen school would do this in addition to the Amplify training? Their website also mentions "pilot schools." So I guess there are no data available as to how effective this approach really is? I'd like to know what exactly SPS will get out of this arrangement, and what academic outcomes will be measured, what data will be shared, etc.

I could easily be wrong about which program TAF plans to bring to SPS, but assuming it's not the full academy program--since SPS schools aren't TAF academies--I suspect it's the one described under the "School Transformation" tab on their website:

What is transformation?
STEMbyTAF School Transformation involves scaling our best practices in leadership, teaching and learning used at TAF Academy to partner with existing public school districts in order to create academic environments that eliminate race-based disparity in academic achievement, and promote the highest level of student learning and teacher development.

What is STEMbyTAF?
STEMbyTAF is a sustained approach to instructional change and improved student learning that hinges on building strong relationships between teachers and students and designing student-focused, relevant learning experiences, [sic]

Uniting this approach with best teaching practices and sound academic, social and emotional interventions yields the most desirable outcomes for students.

What does TAF provide?
TAF is fully committed to ensuring its partner public schools have the tools necessary to successfully transform using our STEMbyTAF model. To do this, we provide the following:

-Full-time instructional coach(es) for the duration of the transformation.
-Focused, ongoing professional development on campus and through our STEMbyTAF Teacher Institute.
-School leadership collaboration.
-Program support including instructional technology, college and career readiness, and access to STEM professionals.
-Membership to a network of educators teaching with the STEMbyTAF method.

If this is what we'll be getting, I'm not seeing all the "rigor" you do. Is this an effort to try to address some of the concerns about Amplify--and if so, why adopt Amplify if it is lacking key elements? Is this about trying to build TAF's case for more of their own academies? Do teachers want additional training and coaching and to spend additional time on collaboration?

As to your sense that "if TAF is operating at the rigor it appears to be" it would be fine for HCC, I don't see anything that suggests that to be the case. Do you know of additional outcomes data on TAF? I can't find any information about what classes are available at each grade, but the data presented under the Academy's "data dashboard" are not promising at all. 34% meet standard on math, 46% on ELA. 18% complete Algebra by 9th grade. Maybe the outcomes would be considered positive relative to high-FRL, high-minority, high-SpEd, low-performing schools, but they are not at all consistent with the levels at which HC/HCC (and also AL students) students are operating. I'm confused by your statement.

all types
Anonymous said…
"Ms. Campano waved that off and said she only heard of one teacher. ..

This is NOT true and Phyllis should know this unless she never bothers to talk to Katie Bishop.

"Why is SEA so supportive of online curriculum? Do they not understand it is being pushed by a bunch of corporate billionaires.."

I wonder the same thing myself since I have set through many very long tirades against "corporate greed" at union meetings. Now, the so called "equity group" are not saying a word and SEA is trying to act like they are talking for ALL science teachers, when in fact they did not bother to even try and find out what the consensus is. This is not the kind of support I would expect from my union.


Representing, of course it is the job of directors to represent all children. But Director Pinkham, as a Native American, has a knowledge and understanding of that community that is valuable and for the SEA to either ignore that or refuse to acknowledge his part in the amendment is wrong.

All Types, I trust TAF because I know (and have known) their founder, Trish Dziko, for a long time. Trish is one of the few people who talks the talk and walks the walk. She put her own personal fortune to better the lives of kids of color. She and her staff have spent years honing this curriculum so, for me, if anyone can come in and create a STEM curriculum, it's them. I don't believe this has anything to do with Amplify.

I had not seen their test scores but they are working with a student body with challenges.

I believe the district IS talking about a TAF Academy at a middle school but there were no written materials so I can't say for certain. The conversation was a bit murky (and I think that was on-purpose).
Old Timer said…
I don't expect to see SEA present an actual teacher survey regarding Amplify to the board.

Juneau better make sure all the invoices line-up. I personally want a state audit.
Old Timer said…
Amplify is expected to cost $8,144,492, This is a rental project. According to the BAR, the district wants $12M for computers. We're looking at a $20M expenditure, here.

Anonymous said…
For comparison, what was the cost of the elementary math adoption, or the MS social studies adoption? The online Board mtg archives do not include materials for 2013-2014 (elementary math adoption was introduced May 21, 2014).

$20M divided by 34,000 (approx. number of Gr1-8 students) works out to roughly $600 per student. That doesn't include the ongoing cost of printing/copying, or the recurring tech costs.

Anonymous said…
So, Director Harris seems to be on the fence about Amplify. Is she (a) convinced the process was completely fair and in accordance with all board policies; (b) certain of the total costs and feasibility of Amplify, including computers, maintenance, and upgrades, as well as ongoing professional development; and (c) convinced that the pilot data show Amplifiy provides strong academic outcomes for all students, especially those of color?

If she's not convinced on all three counts, there's no reason to be on the fence.

Watching said…
Directors have the responsibility of closing a budget. The district's budget is now $1B per year- or 1/26th of the state budget. In three years, the district is expected to experience an $100M shortfall.

Directors must calculate the costs of CORE 24, Racial and Equity training, Amplify and the upcoming SEA contract. A consistent funding stream for counselors and Family Support workers remain illusive.

One Way said…
"the community will reach out to you soon" -SEA

Wow, that doesn't sound Orwellian at all.

Anonymous said…
Welcome to the 21st Century Old Timer. Read the 12M proposed action and you’ll realise it’s aim is to address equitable access to technology for students that wouldn’t otherwise have it. The amplify circus is its own animal.

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