SPS New Updates

Rather than do full reports, this reporting will be highlights from recent Board committee meetings.
Audit&Finance 6/10/19
- There was discussion that the minutes of the last A&F meeting may be incomplete as the recorder died.  Some details of the discussion may be lost.
- Richard Staudt talked about the district's Risk Management Pool which is done jointly with other districts  He stated that other districts seem to have more sexual misconduct claims than SPS.  He also told directors that when he got the quote for SPS' share, he pushed back.  Turns out he was right and saved the district about $150,000.
- I learned something new about the Families& Education levy dollars.  I had thought the City was paying for all summer school costs but those dollars only pay for middle schools and a few elementary schools.  Most of the elementaries receive those dollars from Title One funds plus some district funding.
- Head of Budget JoLynn Berge said that the Superintendent has an internal team about "sourcing and supports for schools" in an effort to identify gaps in funding.  It's called Resource Mapping.  It might a good item for someone to track after my work on SPS ends.
- The budget for 2019-2020 (partial)
$1,044,890,979 for the General Fund budget.  

That is broken into resources of $930,934,317 in non-grant resources and $113,956,662 in grant funds.  Also included is capacity reserves of $18,078,023 in non-grant capacity and $11,500,000 in grant capacity.

The capacity reserves are placeholders for potential spending in the event that new revenues are received or unspent funds from 2018-2019 are transferred to 2019-2020.  

Capital Fund - $348,349,820. 

Berge noted that any changes to enrollment would change the budget.  Director Eden Mack said she did not believe the enrollment numbers.  Berge said they were going on the district's numbers and Mack again said she didn't believe the numbers and was waiting on analysis of the numbers.  Budget's Linda Sebring said that revenue is up per student but that they believed there would be fewer students.

Mack pointed out that the district has a $40M shortfall and yet is spending $90M more than last year.  Sebring said that there are still some labor costs that could change and 85% of the budget is labor.  As well, there is an increase of $5M in Transportation. 

It was an interesting interchange with Director Mack and Berge as Mack seemed to want to nail down budget details and Berge seemed to be wanting to leave wiggle room.  As well, Director Jill Geary and Director Mack then got into a slightly heated discussion over whether SPS is a "big district."  From my own research, I believe that SPS would be considered a mid-level urban district.  It certainly isn't LA or NYC or Chicago.

The vote on the budget is to be July 10th with a legally required public hearing before the regular Board meeting.  Director Patu will be gone so there will only be six votes.  Director Mack indicated that she would be phoning into the meeting to vote.

- As regards the payment of the bonds (still) for JSCEE, here is the latest.  The district has quietly started to take funds out of BEX and BTA funds to pay them off.  BEX V is going to pay out $10M over the life of the levy and so is BTA V (which hasn't even been passed yet).  The last payment on this albatross of a building will be 2026-2027.  

- There was a long discussion around a new WSSDA policy and Board Policy 6100When the Legislature created new McCleary spending they added in requirements around it in order to make sure that districts were only spending the money for "basic education."  If there is an audit finding that a district spent those funds in another manner, then there has to be a public hearing within 30 days.

There was then back and forth about levies being "enrichment" versus money given via private grants or by foundations.  Berge said the district would follow the law and anything beyond what the state funds is what enrichment is.  Geary had brought up PTA funding and asked Mack if she wanted to stop that funding.  Mack said she wasn't ready to do that.   All the directors, including the third member of the committee, Scott Pinkham, seemed in flux about the issue and not willing to commit to the discussion.  

Curriculum&Instruction - 6/11/19

- The first discussion was around the City's funding of Creative Advantage Arts program.  (I note that at last night's Board meeting the Meany Middle School drumline performed - they were great - and their leader stated that some of their funding comes from the CAA.)  The program is active in 56 schools and there are other partners like the Jack Straw Cultural group. 

 - Then in category of "I told you so", staff told the committee members that they needed to make changes to Board policy 3232, Parent/Guardian & Student Rights in Administration of Surveys, Analysis or Evaluations.  This also "cross-references Policy 4280, Research Activity."

Interestingly, there was no mention that this stemmed from the Check Yourself mental health screener being used in several middle schools via King County was NOT in compliance with the federal policy PPRA (Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment) but yes, that's why they were at the table. I'm not sure why they wouldn't explain the issue out loud but perhaps they didn't want that on the record. 

Staff noted that "we are out of compliance with federal law right now."  They said Legal had prompted them to take specific action and that "they had gone ahead and got guidance from the DOE."

I'll just state here that I told them - repeatedly - that they were violating federal policy.  The claim was made to me that Legal had checked with DOE and were told they were fine with the screener.  My read is that the district may not have fully explained to the DOE person what they were doing and that - when another DOE person up the food chain prompted by a national student data privacy expert, Leonie Haimson, looked into it - whoops! they were out of compliance.  And, in the meantime, hundreds of students took this screener without their parents being adequately notified.

The district wants to "incorporate language from a model policy from the Washington State School Director's Association" as well as PPRA.  The district says they need to safeguard the rights of parents in collecting sensitive data.   "The key to the policy is to clearly articulate active consent and passive consent."

It was noted that parents can't opt their child out of a survey if they don't know the survey exists.  No kidding. What is troubling to me is that despite me asking the question out loud at the meeting, they don't have an answer for if the district is going to contact parents from last year when this screener was first used and tell THEM about it.  I do wish I had a parent who would file a complaint with the DOE.

Staff seemed eager to push a new version of the policies forward without the attending Superintendent Procedure being ready.

Director Leslie Harris said there were lessons to be learned and she had received a lot of email about the screener.  She said it took too long to have it reach the level where there was "analysis and pullback."  She also (rightly) stated that she was leery of being by staff that something needed to be done "right away" and have "a lesser work product."

One other fascinating bit of info - the district told me, over and over, "this isn't research" so it doesn't fall under the restrictions of that category.  Well, head of Research & Data, Dr. Eric Anderson repeatedly called it...."research."

Director Rick Burke said he was "torn on this one."  He said that he would move it forward but he had one concern.  He said the policy is about "rights" and yet it doesn't state that parents should be "notified."

Staff wants to put yet another sheet into the ever-expanding first-day packet to cover the notification to parents. 

 Anderson said there might need to be a "data governance group" to which I say, "Yes, please."

It seemed like staff knew they needed to do something but all the moving parts were not in place.  Harris pushed back if there was not a fully completed Superintendent procedure.  They said it may not be ready for the start of school in the fall.

- Another big item is the new dress code under Policy 3224.  The Board is looking for input from parents so I urge you to read this and give it.  Write to spsdirectors@seattleschools.org.  Please don't just write to complain.  Read the policy and give input.

According to the BAR, students were involved in the shaping of the revised policy.

On the issue of schools that do use uniforms, staff says both school staff and parents were consulted about the issue and that the majority want to keep it.  Burke seemed to feel that health and safety would trump any uniform issue (he didn't expand on that).  There was also the issue of equity because of the cost issues of uniforms.  There is one K-8 where the middle school portion of students are unhappy with the policy.

Harris said that Boren K-8 founders who put this into place were aging out of the system and that perhaps it should be revisited.  She said she felt the uniforms were "misogynistic" and it should change.

Burke also said he really didn't care for uniforms.

I have seen pushback on the claim that all parents felt consulted on this issue.  And, I stand by the notes I took at the committee meeting that show that while staff said the majority of parents wanted to continue the policy, there were also directors who did push back on this policy. 

One issue I see right off the bat is this wording:

Must not wear clothing that: (then a lengthy list that includes) "sexually suggestive"

I would say that falls into the late Justice Potter's reasoning about pornography, "I know it when I see it."  What would most parents call "sexually suggestive?"  A tight shirt on a girl whose bustline is large?  Is that her fault? Is it a low neckline?

As well, there is this: "intentionally shows private parts (nipples, genitals, buttocks)".  I don't know about "intentional" but when I go by Roosevelt High at lunchtime, there are some girls who have very short shorts where you can see the crease of their butt cheek.

I note that on one Facebook page, parents were ballistic on this issue, saying there were no longer shorts to be had.  Again, I always say that kids don't have to dress like they are going to church but they should not dress like they are going to the club or the beach.  

- There was also an Ethnic Studies update.  It's challenging work as the head of Ethnic Studies said that she had to go to conferences on her own time because of the travel freeze.  She said that PD has been a priority and that the summer institute is sold out with a waitlist.  It was noted that about one-third of principals contacted about the curriculum have not answered.  Diane DeBacker, CAO, said that she needs to get on that.

Interestingly, Director Geary asked, "Do principals not like being told to do something?" 

Kyle Kinoshita said that principals have many priorities and that perhaps this wasn't communicated to them as a priority.  He said "we need to provide availability and need a unified voice from the top."
Director Burke said if it wasn't in CSIPs maybe then it didn't seem like a priority.  The head of Ethnic Studies said that principals seemed focused on testing and Common Core.  She suggested the principals might let "strong teacher leaders take over."  (Editor's note; my notes reflect CCC which is Center for the Collaborative Classroom.  I was moving fast yesterday and typed Common Core.)

- There was some discussion about the 24-Credits issue.  Director Harris expressed concern over IEPs.   Cal Perkins said that they would add more explicit language but an IEP "trumps 24 credits."  

The Board meeting last night was fairly lively; I'll have a separate post on that.


Anonymous said…
Thank you Melissa for attending and reporting all of this. If not for you, NONE of this would have been covered.

The best disinfectant is sunlight. That shining light of yours makes everything transparent. If not for you, SPS JSCEE staff would pull WAY more fast ones. It is going to be frightening as you pull back.

I remember the downtown school fiasco, for example. Trying to buy a money-pit, unbelievably unsuitable building in order to put some kind of school there when it wasn’t really clear what if anything was even needed there (clearly NOTHING is needed there). All because a monied downtown association lobby group wanted an amenity for Paul Allen’s condos.

And the madness continues. Amplify is garbage and will hurt poor kids the worst. Mark my words, the department of technology is going to come demanding budget to cover computers and networks for schools in order to accommodate Amplify. The amplify folks just showed up and demanded kids take a personality test, aptitude test, all for career purposes, and again we parents couldn’t say no to it because we didn’t know it was coming. Look at what Cambridge analytical did with the data from free personality tests people took on Facebook. This personality inventory survey kids were forced to take has really got nothing to do with education and it’s extremely frightening and wrong.

So much is going so wrong in so many places.

Ethnic studies are funded? How? Textbooks paid for? Professional training to every teacher paid for? Really? Is time immemorial materials also ready to roll out? Was there even an adoption?

Worst of all, the political budget Berge cooked up & is ramming through. So grateful Mack pushed back & wanted real data (shouldn’t EVERY board member have been equally engaged in exercising that most primary of fiduciary responsibility of being a board director— budget?!).

As for the PTA... bottom line, when somebody wants to give me free money, I take it. It’s true that not every school has a PTA, it’s also true that not every school raises the same per capita per amount. But does that mean we should reject parents donating money to schools? If they want to tweak the mechanism to create leveling, let’s hear about that. If they think they can ban parents resourcing their children school, they’re idiots. Plain & simple. What about schools that have more parent volunteer hours? Should we meter that? Force them to chaperone Field trips at other schools? Or ban volunteerism? Does this district actually think they could block 501(c)(3) nonprofits? Do they really lack the imagination to appreciate where there’s a strong desire to contribute, folks will find a way to support their communities? Actually, I heard Juneau is trying to ban an orchestra field trip because not every middle school takes that trip. How’s that for excellence in education? Throttling opportunities for students is NOT how you ensure access, all that does it takes it away from some kids who but for that field trip, would get no such opportunity (Since every single kid in that school who desires an instrument gets one, & every kid who is part of the groups going is scholarshipped as needed be in order to participate).

The fact that per student SPS funding is u & the overall budget is significantly up when you look the last 8 years, yet they seem to not be able to deliver as much education as before (counselors are gone, librarians are at risk, nursing resources, etc)? That’s gross mismanagement or incompetence or both.

I can’t think of a single thing this district does right. Teachers in the classrooms do lots & lots of things right, but staff at JCSEE? Zilch.

So Tired

Ed said…
That's alright So Tired:

These things cycle around.

Remember MGJ, Solar Potter and the last time the construction trades got an "apprenticeship utilization" policy implemented?

We do.

They assume we have forgotten.

Hold on,

Ed said…
That's Silas Pottwr as in Fred Stephens, Maria Goodloe-johnson and THE LAST TIME THIS POLICY WAS FOISTED UPON THE BOARD.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much Melissa for covering these meetings. Regarding Title I funding, Biden mentioned on last night's democratic debate he had plans to triple Title I education funding! Can you imagine if they can implement these and other plans as well as as free college and universal healthcare? That would be phenomenal.

In watching both debates with such a strong range of diversity of candidates it gave me so much hope for the future. There were Latino, Asian, Women, LGBTQ, Jewish, Black, Indian/Black, S.Italian (with a black son) candidates, from all over the country. To think that we only had ONLY Northern European white male presidents until Obama. All had such great plans and honestly I would take any one of them over Trump.

Anonymous said…
Ugh - I only got through 2/3 of the dress code proposal. I believe the district should simplify it so that it can be enforced (if they want so badly to have a dress code). One of the first ethical dilemmas I had with my child as a youngster stemmed from the arbitrary lack of enforcement of policies by the district. I don't care what my kid wears but I want her to follow the rules. We had endless arguments in the morning with my kid stating (correctly) that even though her attire violates the dress code: no one will care. Of course she was right. Thanks SPS for providing my child with an early example of rule flaunting and providing her with a healthy disrespect for district policies and a lack of respect for authority. I raised her to respect authority but the district did its best to undermine that. The lesson: do not make arbitrary knee jerk policies you have no intention of enforcing for ALL students. Think about the classroom realities of policing all these children before making pronouncements. Oh and thanks, SPS, for ruining so many of our mornings with your unenforced dress codes.

Also, thanks Melissa for your reporting over the years.

Anonymous said…
I enforced the rules re: dress codes even if the school didn’t. Was my daughter happy about that? No, but I am the parent, not her pal.

Sped S
Jaded, exactly. If principals (and their staffs) are allowed to interpret the policy to the point of non-enforcement, what's the point? Then, if any student does get called out, then it's unfair.

Sped S, good for you. We need fewer parents as friends and more parents as parents.

Interestingly, at a Facebook parent page for Kent SD, one mom said her kid got called out for an improper top and the mom brought her daughter a sweatshirt. The kid put it on but got too hot and so took it off. Mom got called to come and get her and she was suspended for the rest of the year (less than a week).

Do I think that was overkill on the part of the administration? I do but if kids know that there WILL be enforcement, they are less likely to ignore the rules.
Anonymous said…
"...Thanks SPS for providing my child with an early example of rule flaunting and providing her with a healthy disrespect for district policies and a lack of respect for authority....

As someone who tried for years to enforce the dress code, exactly as it was written in order to not play favorites, I can tell you that it's an endless battle that the teacher cannot win.

I have no problem with students trying to push the limits, because I think that is what makes us strong- young people pushing against the rules of the older people. However, the real problem was adults- both staff and parents- who would rather not be bothered.

The dress code now is so loose as to be practically non-existent and quite frankly it was nice to give up that battle.

Anonymous said…
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t see much problem with dressing like you’re going to the beach, even. I grew up in Florida, where it was regularly excruciatingly hot, at a time when short-shorts were the fashion. In theory, visible bra straps were banned, but spaghetti strap tank tops were in so that often resulted in no bra at all (nothing visible) so teachers tended to turn a blind eye to straps. On field days, during after school sports and band practices, and similar activities, it wasn’t uncommon to see actual swimsuits on boys and girls, either under clothes or not. And yet... it wasn’t a big deal. It was appropriate for the weather. Cheerleaders’ uniforms worn on game days weren’t much different. *shrug*

-Pragmatic Xennial

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