Friday, November 22, 2019

Friday Open Thread

Saw this story via a discussion page at Facebook on Kent School District - in 2017 the ACLU filed this court case against the state of Washington for Special Education students.
ACLU accusing the state of neglecting students with behavioral disabilities. One of the plaintiffs says her 13-year-old son who has bipolar disorder and ADHD has been targeted by teachers and excluded from his classroom.
Speaking of OSPI, OSPI Releases 2018–19 Student Discipline Data
The data are available at the school, district, and state level through the state Report Card.
The overall percentage of Washington’s students in grades K–12 who were excluded from school in the 2018–19 school year decreased slightly from the previous year (from 4.1% to 4.0%).

Students in foster care,with disabilities and Native American students all saw lower rates. 

The new data are from the first school year in which revised statewide student discipline rules were in effect. Additional rules just went into effect for the current school year.
Really good work from KUOW from a SPS student who is neurodiverse.
Neurodiversity includes conditions from autism to ADHD to dyslexia. Basically, it refers to variations in how our brains work.
"Most of the understanding gaps," Dede said, "tend to come from general education teachers' misunderstanding of what accommodations are.”

Part of her job is to help teachers understand that accommodations help create a classroom that supports a diversity of learning styles.

For me, accommodations often mean extra time to complete an assignment or another adjustment that makes it easier for my brain to express what I know.
I do have several upcoming posts including one on restorative justice, the Superintendent's visit to the Seattle Council Special Education PTSA (spoiler: not good), one on seclusion and restraint for Sped students (an uptick of stories on this issue have crossed my computer), and another on the Superintendent's (apparent) change of heart on grouping highly capable students (from when she was heading public education in Montana).

Just a heads up - I went and saw the film "Dr. Sleep" which is a continuation of "The Shining," with the boy in The Shining now grown and experiencing supernatural issues in his life.  I really liked the original film but this film, not so much.   I don't want to do a whole review  but wanted to let you know that there is one longish scene of torture of a child until his death.  I am a bit softie for kids and this really me hit hard and I closed my eyes until it was over.  So just in case you were thinking of seeing it, be warned.

On the upside for movies, I am looking forward to the careful calm of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers.  Could be the best end to a tough week. 

What's on your mind?


Holly Briscoe said...

Melissa -

I am a long time reader, never commenter, and eternally grateful for the work that you've done to keep me (and others) informed. I am super active in my children's elementary school community (Highland Park Elementary) and now I have a child at Denny International Middle School as well. Additionally I am a Special Education Teacher in the district at Intandem.

I wanted to say thanks for all of your time and energy. I will miss you and your reporting. Much of the ins and outs that I know about SPS and Education in general is due in part to your blog. I am wondering if you have any recommendations for blogs to follow/educational resources in lieu of yours?

Take good care and know you will be missed.


Holly Briscoe




Community advocate

Carol Simmons said...

The Board meeting was interesting. The comments from the Board Directors were obviously sincere but somewhat perplexing. I encourage everyone to watch. The departing Directors spoke eloquently about their service and they and President Harris spoke honestly about what regretfully had not been accomplished. It appeared that President Harris was troubled about certain initiatives that had not been fulfilled and also that information about them and had only recently been daylighted by emails. She mentioned UNEA and this is certainly true. A community search revealed that District staff knew about the District's severance of the Partnership between UNEA and the District and the planned eviction from the sacred site of Licton Springs a long time before the Board or community or UNEA knew.
It was also pointed out that because of the planned move of Licton Springs School from the Eaglestaff building, there will not be any Native Focus at the Robert Eaglestaff site. Even Director Pinkham evidenced concern about the preservation of the MURALS......good grief, does that battle need to be fought again?

Why did Superintendent Juneau change her position regarding HCC grouping from the position she held in Montana?

Why did Director De Wolf mention UNEA in the list of District partnerships?

Why is the District creating the Math achievement Gap as observed by Director Burke?

Why is there not enough transparency or attention to conflict resolution or historical promises?

Finally, it seemed as if this Board had finally listened and heard. But did they? An important indicator would be if they reverse the decision about evicting the successful UNEA/Clear Sky Program from the sacred site of Licton Springs.
Will their legacy be one of justice for all?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I hope the blog can continue at least as an online gathering place to share information. Even a couple Open Threads each week will give us all an opportunity to ask questions and daylight things we've learned. I know there are a lot of issues around moderation since there are unfortunately people who post terrible and inappropriate things, but I hope there are options for this. While few people can sign up for the huge commitment you have made (to our kids, to all of us), perhaps some of us will sign up to at least keep this blog as a gathering place. I'd hate to see everyone splinter to other places, and I particularly dislike the idea of moving to Facebook for this.

And again, thank you Melissa.


Anonymous said...

I would like to highlight the SPS audit plan for 2020.

It calls out the severe issue of turnover in executive leadership as a control deficiency on page 3. Also, it lists racial equity as the last priority item, which seems counterintuitive, since they want to implement the Strategic Plan without an, um, implementation plan.


More Noise Please

Melissa Westbrook said...

Carol, good questions all. I will be giving info on Juneau's Montana stand of grouping of highly capable students.

As well, this idea of revisionist history every single time there is a new superintendent is just exhausting. But Juneau's right up there with the best of them.

More Noise Please, the district auditor did give his annual report but I don't recall the issue you raise as being spoken about. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

@MW. Hmmmm is right. Also, this gem:

“There are four significant risk factors impacting the District’s operations that were considered in preparation of the audit plan. These items are common among school districts throughout the country and are not necessarily specific to Seattle Public Schools.“

Effectively, poorly managed districts are common, so nothing to see here. Mirrors our national discourse.

More Noise Please

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, and when you have to spend $400K+ plus (seemingly) because your only tech person in Payroll quit and you can't temp it until a new one gets hired, not so operationally sound.

Josh Hayes said...


Tempus fugit, ars longa.

This blog is a legacy of which you can be proud. As a parent of kids in this district, as a (temporary) employee, as a student teacher (go Roughriders!), this place has been invaluable. You have every right to be proud of what you accomplished, and as for the yappy puppies, well, haters gonna hate. Best of luck in the new place.

seattle citizen said...

I like the idea of the blog continuing in some form, if even just the occasionally "open friday" etc for comments and discussion.
But the other part of this blog is Melissa's diligent and time-consuming fact-finding, review of publications, bird-dogging of district goings-on...I wonder if someone could take up that mantle and continue to provide broad reporting on what's happening in SPS and elsewhere....

Me, I'm super busy with work and family.
Maybe some young-un who retired early and wants to help our community through such work....

Anonymous said...

Yes I would like to see the blog continue in some fashion. I know that is selfish. How about an unnamed facilitator team that raises open thread topics to their own thread. I would also recommend switching it to having to have an account to publish. I assume that's possible. It could still be anonymous but it would cut down troll traffic significantly.

Thank you for all your hard work Melissa. And Charlie if you're still out there... Remember how you kept saying MTSS was going to be used for the highly capable. Spot on sir. Should have known when they couldn't define the curriculum at the first splits.


Cooked Books said...

Highlighting the Strategies 360 contract. The $55,000 Strategies 360 contract appeared to be a crisis management strategy to manage the district's capacity, budget and enrollment debacle. I do have a problem when the CFO and Superintendent engage in such tactics.

HCC Update said...

Juneau is meeting with principals at their monthly meeting. She is pushing the Strategic Plan and shared her Op-Ed in the Seattle Times. When a superintendent pushes his/her plan, one can only expect his/her employees to comply. This, before the ALTF issued the recommendation.

CBOs / TAF said...

TAF and WAMS Dr. Scarlett reported on the most recent development on the proposed partnership between Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and Seattle Public Schools and the possibility of having TAF at Washington Middle School. Dr. Scarlett shared that Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) were posted on the website
on August 1st. Dr. Scarlett noted that families have an opportunity to ask more questions via a link on the website and a community engagement meeting scheduled for October 19th. Director Geary asked how Community Based Organizations (CBOs) have been included in the discussions. Dr. Scarlett responded that CBOs have been involved at the table for engagement. Director Geary suggested sharing the FAQs with CBOs and soliciting more questions from them. Director Geary also suggested having FAQs that are responsive to the greater community. Dr. DeBacker added that Principal Hunt has been involved throughout the process. Dr. Scarlett commented that a Friday Memo will be provided as things develop. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa, for your tireless work on this blog. I'm eternally grateful for the information you've provided. I'm also sincerely impressed with your dedication and fortitude, as you've taken a lot of grief from some angry trolls over the years, especially recently.

The information you've posted and the conversations you've elicited have made me a much better-informed parent. As a result, I've been able to make good decisions for my children and advocate for them in a way I wouldn't have been able to without this blog as a resource. I've been following your blog daily for the last ten years, and have tried to read most posts and most comments.

I sincerely appreciate you and wish you the best in your next chapter. Thank you!

-Seattle parent

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing your blog and keeping people informed of what is happening in the school district. It has been very helpful and also very interesting. Good luck with your next step in life.


Melissa Westbrook said...

One odd thing - at the Board meeting I had checked on something at the SPS webpage. There was a new article about TAF/SPS and dated November 20th. I made a physical note to read it later. But it's gone now. Wonder what it said.

Anonymous said...

Juneau is appalled by the segregation in SPS HC, people. What don't you get about that?

No Brainer

Melissa Westbrook said...

No Brainer, wait, what? Because the Superintendent is trying to fix an issue in the district that the district has known about (and continued) for decades,we are to look away from all that she does? No.

Anonymous said...

I lived the poker face on Juneau when Melissa gave her farewell speech.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

In reply to No Brainer.

It really is a no brainer. It's astounding that the district is attacking a program (HCC) as racist by using demographics numbers. From the OSPI report card, 38% of African American students met standards in English whereas 83% of white students did so. The numbers for meeting standards for African American students in math (27%) and science (21%) were even lower. Or starting even earlier, 41% of African American students are ready for kindergarten as opposed to 70% of white students.

When the vast majority of African American students are not meeting standards at grade level, and are not reaching kindergarten readiness at start of kindergarten, it is absurd to expect that the demographics of HCC should represent that of the student population for students from populations furthest from educational justice.

To be appalled at the segregation of HCC is completely disingenuous, or equally concerning, it belies a fundamental lack of understanding. It would be absurd to have 9% of African American students meeting criteria for HCC giftedness (the rate bandied around for HCC population in Seattle Schools) when only 21% meet basic standards in science.

The real tragedy is no real proposals are being advanced to bolster academic enhancement for students further from educational justice. Dismantling HCC is a political ploy but empty. So unfortunate that well-meaning parents are uncritically accepting the nonsense spouted by the district.


Anonymous said...

Links attached to the 2018-2019 report. This is what the district needs to focus on. Free quality preschools would be an excellent start. Those who are furthest away from educational justice benefit most from preschool and early enrichment.



SCPTSA BS said...

The SCPTSA has decided to involve themselves with the WMS/ TAF situation. They should not pretend to be an entity that represents all parents and teachers. WMS teachers voted against having TAF in their school.

Anonymous said...


Yes! Free Pre-K for All. That is a program which helps close the Achievement Gap.

Juneau's nonsense, "Honors for All", cannot work. Placing HC kids, who are academically two years ahead, in remedial classes with students who are 1-2 years behind. Doesn't work for anyone.

All students need preparation. Give it to them, so that they all can succeed.

It's not Un-American for WA legislators to get WA Billionaires to pay taxes, for Pre-K in WA State.

Thinking Ahead

Different View said...

Don't expect anything great. Administrators will soon be moving past the greater than $150K per year and closer to the $200K per year salary. Even the Billionaires can't keep up with The Beast called education.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ha and Priceless, it was hard for me to focus on any one person so I'll have to go back and watch. I'm certain my announcement caused some popping of champagne corks all over the district.

SCPTA BS, tell me more about what they are doing about TAF. I fear that TAF is fully aligned with the Superintendent and may not be getting the whole picture.

Thinking Ahead, I don't think you are being accurate (from what I understand); Honors for All is not a remedial class. It's a combo Gen Ed/HCC class. However, when you have students who likely have been performing at the top and those in the middle (and some lower), you might want to throw in resources to make sure all needs get covered. This is not my understanding at GHS.

Anonymous said...

yes Think PLS as you said, "To be appalled at the segregation of HCC is completely disingenuous, or equally concerning, it belies a fundamental lack of understanding."

That person made up their mind without understanding all the details and facts. Too much of that going on these days because of a buzzword or something. They come on with strong opinions yelling loudly without much understanding or deeper thinking connecting all the dots.


@HJ said...

@ HJ Some people don't care to understand the facts. At least one or two new board members have embraced this ideology.They just want to break the cohort model. Highly capable students need cohorts. The district can't guarantee an impactful cohort. It may take a lawsuit to stop this process.

Highly Capable services is basic education. An expert testified as to what the district is expected to provide under state law. OSPI is watching the situation.

Anonymous said...


I've been reading your blog for a decade now, and have dipped in & out of participating over the years, sometimes anonymously, sometimes (like now) by name. Thank you for all your work. I honestly don't know where we parents will get the information we need about SPS going forward, once your reporting ends. Have you thought about successors to carry on this tremendous community service?

Best of luck with your move and everything your future holds.


Anonymous said...

I’ve enjoyed reading the blog since I moved to Seattle - before I had kids, when I was just planning. I hope there will be some way to continue to read the great analysis by people like Kellie and Eric and, back in the day, Joe Wolf.

-Pragmatic Xennial

Anonymous said...

Seattle Times has an article on school funding and how many students you need for a nurse: