Wednesday, July 10, 2019

One Item of Note - District Sued Over Amplify

I’m going to provide this thread the interest of starting a discussion.

From KUOW:
Citizens' group files suit against Seattle Schools over controversial science curriculum

To note, I’m not involved and did not know this was happening.  That said, I do believe there is a lot of info out there that may help the plaintiffs.  And, of course, if it does go to court, I will be glad to testify.


Anonymous said...

Testify to what? Blogging? JHC you're over the top full of yourself. It's getting worst every year.


Anonymous said...

Watcher, that is an amusing comment and way off base. MW has provided a steady flow of information about the flawed adoption process, from soup to nuts. She knows the topic inside out and from all sides.


Watching said...

Thanks to concerned citizens that spent countless hours on this issue.

Very concerning that board did not approve committee members. This reminds me of when the city pushed through a charter school and did not include Seattle Public Schools for committee selection- which was a violation of city law.

Let's get back to learning said...

I think most of what the board does do and dosn't do is concerning. Remind me again why we have a school board.

Anonymous said...

Glad they are suing. The whole process was an abomination.


Anonymous said...

I think the other companies that took the time to submit their materials for consideration should join in the suit, since it appears the process was rigged from the start.

Has the district already paid Amplify, or can they--like they did with the HC Services Advisory Committee, and as they seem to have done with the 24-credit requirement planning and implementation--hit the "pause" button?


Anonymous said...

HCS AC has not been paused. We certainly have not functioned this year in the same way that we had in the past. But as a parent/volunteer group we are still advocating for the HCS community.


Anonymous said...

Except that the HCS/AC has been paused. No monthly district meetings. No staff involvement. No means for parents to hear directly from the head of AL. No organized means to provide feedback on changes to AL.

effectively paused

Anonymous said...

The “Gift of Public Funds Doctrine” refers to a fairly broad set of prohibitions contained in two sections of the Washington State Constitution. While the two sections vary to some degree, they focus on a common theme of barring the state government and its political subdivisions from conferring benefits on private parties in ways that might disadvantage public interests.

It is a good idea for many government officers and even some government employees to have at least a basic understanding of the doctrine, as its broad scope causes it to crop up in a variety of contexts.

First Mary Margaret WELCH got Amplify into public schools on a mass waiver (maybe she skipped that actual policy process too) — giving them a massive leg up when it came time for an RFP for science curriculum. She was featured in THEIR marketing materials. Hmmm...

AMPLIFY USED OUR PUBLIC ASSETS - our school buildings and computing resources and our teacher staff time and got out of it student data (a massively valuable asset even though yes it is an intangible asset) and therefore used public assets for private gain. AND THEY USED THESE PUBLIC ASSETS TO GAIN SOMETHING EVEN MORE VALUABLE - the 9 year contract to rent their crappy software to our district for multimillions of dollars. Are they going to sell professional development too to SPS?

ALL THIS skirted both SPS policies AND the RCWs about the conflict of interest/state ethic laws.

Bless whoever filed this law suit. I hope their lawyers really have a lot of experience not so much with education law, but with the WA state ethics code and the gift of public funds Doctrine. To the inexperienced, these connections may seem unfamiliar, but when you really stop and consider what the laws were designed to prevent, and what happened here, this exactly fits the bill. Welch may wish to consider hiring an attorney- because willful misconduct and gross negligence can fall outside of the indemnification shield for employees.

We either have the rule of law, or we don’t. It either applies equally and consistently, or were nothing but a banana republic. It’s not about whether you like amplify or not, it’s whether we have process or not. Certainly the assistant attorney general for the state of Washington will be apprised of these violations by whoever is suing and investigate thoroughly and appropriately. There’s so much documentation on this it is not even comical because there’s nothing funny about it.

When I read on this blog some big time attorneys had been hired I think back east, I figured it was the publisher who knew they had run afoul of the law in obvious non-defendable ways and so had started to ready resources to defend themselves. I laughed when the troll said those attorneys were hired to go after Melissa or another public advocate. That only revealed how ignorant those trolls were (which of course fits the profile of a troll).

Wheels of justice

Anonymous said...

They don't stand a chance to win.


Anonymous said...

@ Robert, whether or not the HCS AC is is or is not now officially or unofficially paused wasn't my point. My point was that there is precedent for such pauses, as Tolley DID "pause" the AC. The district's HCS AC web page includes this message from Tolley, dated 9/17/18:

"...in conjunction with the work of the Task Force, the HCSAC is pausing while we await the recommendations and any subsequent Superintendent and Board decisions. From there and if so charged, the HCSAC can continue..."

"...At the close of the Task Force work, and once the Superintendent and School Board have approved policy and procedure, we anticipate the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee working alongside the district to ensure the implementation of established goals and outcomes as informed by board policy and superintendent procedures. "

"When the work of the Task Force begins to draw to a close, a refreshed Charge for the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee will be developed and provided to the Superintendent. This new Charge will be tightly aligned to the refreshed mission and vision as well as the board and superintendent approved policy and procedures that will anchor the work of identifying and providing services to advanced learners and students identified as Highly Capable. "

Also, to be honest, I'm also not getting the same vibe that you are about this supposed un-pausing. Based on the above, it still looks kinda paused to me. I know there were emails sent out about a "re-launch" and merger that suggest more of an advocacy bent (from HiCapSeattle.org website: "HC FAMILIES BUILDING COMMUNITY AND SUPPORTING HICAP AND 2E STUDENTS BY ADVOCATING FOR BEST PRACTICES, EQUITY & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT"), and I think that is great--and much needed. However, it's not clear to me that it reflects the next phase of the district's HCS AC. It sounds more like its own thing, and the language from Tolley seems to suggest likewise.

If the "re-launched" organization is really the next phase of the HCS AC--if it really represents the newly un-paused version--I might suggest that communications to that effect could be greatly strengthened. Any communications I've received to date from this new group have been very unclear as to its relationship to the district, as well as how it fits with this newly anticipated role laid out by Tolley. As well, given that the existing language from Tolley suggests that many other things need to happen prior to the possible "refresh" of the HCS AC, it might be helpful to address that--and clarify that those things have already happened (or that this is early work to rebuild the group in advance of the completion of those things). It might also be a good idea to clarify why and how the HCS AC--which seems like a district entity--is being "replaced" by the this seemingly independent group. Finally, if this new group is truly the revamped HCS AC, it might be good to make sure the district gets that updated on their website ASAP, and that all this also get clarified on the new org's website, too. Based on all I've seen to date, I've interpreted this new group as a grassroots parent group that has no direct link to the district, and so I've not paid it much attention (especially given the lack of info on its website). I assume other parents may be similarly unclear.


Melissa Westbrook said...

SEA, not a chance? Well, there is a paper trail a mile wide and Kyle Kinoshita admitted at one committee meeting that they hadn’t gotten Board approval so it’s possible to flip the whole thing on that. RCW and all.

Can you please NOT involve other topics on this thread?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to go off on that tangent, Melissa. (I assume you were talking to me.) I originally brought up a couple other areas as evidence of precedent for a pause--which might be a good idea re: Amplify given the apparent lawsuit--then felt compelled to respond to comment that promoted seemingly contradictory (or at best, incredibly unclear) information about one of those other areas.

Please feel free to delete my earlier comment and I can respond to @Robert on the next open thread instead.


suep. said...

A complaint about the science adoption process has also been filed with the state auditor. Numerous policies and RCWs were violated.

Anonymous said...

The reality HF is that the district told the board during the high School pathways that they were unsure of a connection between the HCSAC and the District because the HCSAC came out against no pathways for high school highly capable students. Kari Hanson said exactly that as they attempted to ramrod a very unpopular anti-choice amendment through the board.

They respected our well-reasoned advocacy and anatomy as a partner with the district under Bob Vaughn but staff had over the last 3 years eroded the committees long-standing independence to finally severe that independence.

Having served on the AC and interfaced with many of the long standing presidents of the committee going back to the 1990s I can tell you the group has evolved to nearly becoming a desired rubber stamp by SPS staff. I am proud to tell you that is no longer the case. And we have been advocating for best practices especially as it comes to the events at WMS and REMS this year.

So no HF you need to come up with another example of a district pause. There are many. You could also come up with examples of district being hypocritical. Amplify adoption is a fine example. You could also come up with cases where staff have purposely misled the board. I see it happen almost every board meeting I watch. Which brings us back to topic.

Why can't staff just follow the damn rules. Why can't best practices define how kids are taught at SPS.


Anonymous said...

but staff had over the last 3 years eroded the committees long-standing independence to finally severe that independence.

Should have said/:
but some AC leadership and staff had over the prior 3 years eroded the committees long-standing independence to nearly a sham, doing busy work,in my opinion, instead of advocating for best practices. There were no meaningful updates to speak from AL. No building updates. We were just trying to figure out how to work MTSS into our charter without even explaining what that meant.


Anonymous said...

Just so it's clear, SueP is fighting against amplify because she is claiming the district violated polices and RCWs? OK Suep just like all the violations in SPED WHILE YOU WERE ON THE BOARD and the board president. You chose to stand out in front of Garfield with a blow horn. So please stop with your pious commenting.

You had your 15 min, now shuffle along.


kellie said...

I'm really glad that someone decided to sue over this issue and continue to shed some day light on the topic.

While it is a serious long shot that any legal action will cause a different outcome, hopefully, the legal action will cause SPS to be more circumspect in curriculum adoption, going forward. Budget, student assignment and curriculum are the big three reasons that school boards exist so that there is public oversight of these critical functions and that all the various WACs are followed.

Regardless of the legal technicalities, the entire process was simply not clean or clear. A committee that was commissioned in order to conduct a very MINOR ALIGNMENT, morphed into a full blown adoption process with the liberal use of waivers. But then again, the culture of lawlessness is likely to continue.

GH Mom said...

If MMW had handled the adoption more honesty, openness, and professionalism she would have saved the taxpayers of Seattle from the added expense of this lawsuit. Politicians, business interests, and Seattle taxpayers should all be concerned at the expensive ineptness that is entrenched in SPS. We need a school district for the 21st century. Help us!

Anonymous said...

We need a school district for the 21st century. Help us!

Careful what you wish for. Amplify may have a shiny new 21st century robot team they can lease us for a small fee.. Untested, of course, but it uses computers so is bound to be good, right?


Watching said...

I'm starting to re-think the entire committee process and board oversight.

A Science Alignment committee met for TWO years. We ended up with an entire new scope and sequence. No other districts took such a dramatic approach....content was simply added to existing classes. To make matters worse, we ended -up with Amplify; a science curriculum that does not have a stable K-5 funding source. (!)

District spending has increased 25% in two years and doubled since 2013. The district is expecting a significant shortfall.

The district has now convened an Advanced Learning Committee. Are their guidelines navigating this work? Or, shall we expect another unfunded committee mandate in the midst of a significant budget short-fall?

Anonymous said...

The ALTF 3 was born out of the desperation of staff that they couldn't achieve eliminating choice through the board so they have the likes the Devin Bruckner who against board policy spoke against HCC at every board meeting for nearly a year and those like her be placed on the TF to gut the program which was staff's goal all along.

So yeah it's going to be a ton more cash teaching far less with poorer results IMO. So like amplify.


Robert Cruickshank said...

I’m ecstatic that some parents and community members have chosen to sue over the adoption of Amplify Science. It is a massively inequitable curriculum, designed to make white billionaires and investors richer at the expense of teachers. Online curriculum like this exists to deskill the teaching profession, eliminating teacher jobs and slashing the pay of those teachers who remain - and it’s no coincidence that the cost of adopting Amplify Science comes at the expense of other more important things, like ethnic studies or teacher pay.

The school board made a huge error in approving Amplify Science, especially given its fundamentally inequitable nature. Let’s hope that judges step up where school board directors failed.

Wondering said...

The Amplify committee did not receive board approval.

Melissa meticulously documented the Advanced Learning Taskforce on June 25, 2018. There is a UW Researcher (Nancy Hertzog) on the committee. Community organizers that don't have children in the district are also on the committee.

Did the board approve the Advanced Learning Taskforce Committee?

Wondering said...

There is a writer for ParentMap on the committee, too. This is all very interesting.

Anonymous said...

The district should not seat Devin Bruckner on a task force when she and her minions clogged public board testimony against the HCC and HCS best practices, on the ALTF. Right? Especially since she ignored their stated policies. ALTF HAS COOKED THE BOOKS AGAINST HCC just like some of the same staff have for amplify.

Both merit legal action.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Wondering, who is that?

Anonymous said...

The "alignment" process morphed into an adoption because MMW tried to circumvent the adoption process completely-- by calling it an alignment to NGSS, but also for all schools to teach the same thing. They were developing the high school "teacher created" abomination of a curriculum for two years with the intent to force all teachers to use it. This is at the same time that schools started using amplify in that grant. Pretty clear what she was trying to do. When several teachers complained to the board about what she was doing, all of a sudden, an adoption process started. She has been lying from the very beginning.

Worried for the Future