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Friday, September 17, 2021

Seattle School Board Trashes the Idea of "Accountability and Transparency" in their Work

 Folks, most of you know I have been a public education advocate in Seattle for decades. And just when I think Seattle Schools/Seattle School Board cannot get worse, they always surprise me. Below is a quick summary but I will flesh out the details below that and, when I finally get information that IS public information that WAS paid for by Seattle taxpayers and WAS already voted on by the Board, I will write more detail.

My perception of the bottom line is that the Board is trying to protect its members, the district is trying to not get sued and the people of Seattle are being gaslighted and deceived by the people employed and elected to run Seattle Schools. 

Summary

In September of 2020, two senior staffers at SPS filed a formal letter of complaint to the Board. Those two women were Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi, both black women. In their complaint, they state that for months, both then President Zachary DeWolf and then VP Chandra Hampson had "intimidated, harassed, bullied, gaslighted, retaliated and silenced" them in their work environment. The two women also charged that there was racism involved in this behavior by Hampson and DeWolf. The two women do not detail when/how on the counts but it apparently culminated at a Board committee meeting in September 2020.

We now know that the Board's reply to this was to launch an external investigation by a law firm into the charges.

Last Wednesday, at a regularly scheduled Board meeting, the final investigation report results were announced. According to the report, Hampson and DeWolf were found to have bullied, harassed and intimated both Scarlett and Al-ansi but not racially or by gender. 

The Board voted to accept the final investigation report, give a copy of the named Board policy to Hampson and DeWolf and advise them to comply with the superintendent's procedure that flows from it and that future directors receive training on the policy. 

The policy is 5207 and deals with how SPS staffers and district volunteers behave and act towards each other.  Sadly, we come to find that the policy does NOT include Board members and that actually, there is NO policy around how Board directors treat staff or each other. 

The Board also folded into the motion that they waive another policy 1420 that requires that all documentation for each item on the Board agenda be attached no later than three days before. Because the Board had chosen - for no stated reason - to NOT attach the final investigation report to the agenda for the public to see. 

I have sent in a public disclosure request - because CLEARLY the report is done and voted on - for the report and am told I can get it October 1st. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Around the Horn at Seattle Public Schools

Editor's note: a rather stunning admission came out at last week's Board meeting involving President Chandra Hampson and VP Zachary DeWolf.  It made for some rather tortured discussion. I am waiting on a document that is a final investigation report in order to be reporting clearly on this issue. Look for that post this week. 


COVID

Saw this today on a parent Facebook page. Apparently a parent got a call from the school nurse to pick up her child with a sore throat/runny nose (but no fever). The nurse told her that SPS had changed their symptom policy and if a student has one or more symptoms, they would be required to be picked up immediately. The child can then return to school 24 hours after a negative COVID test. 

Wanted to let other parents know about this change. From my conversation with the school nurse, it seems that the expectation is that parents should keep their kids home and get them tested if they have any symptoms whatsoever now.

The district's COVID dashboard indicates the number of cases is going up.

Parents also wondered about testing at schools and it seems some schools give a handout where parents can go. One parent said the principal at her school said that schools will offer it only to those with symptoms/exposure to COVID. But the principal seemed unsure when this would be happening. 


Parents, what have you heard at your school? I see nothing new at the SPS website.

K-5 Curriculum Survey

Which is then retitled at the link at website as "Needs Assessment Survey for Families and Community Members." 

One question seems off to me:

How important is each of the following to the goal of math learning in Seattle Public Schools? Answer: essential, very important, somewhat important, not important
  • Instructional materials connect mathematical concepts and learning to authentic family, community, and cultural experiences
  • Instructional resources for teachers provide support for the learning needs of all students (Multilingual learners, Highly Capable, etc.)
  • Instructional resources for teachers provide support for small group instruction and activities.
I mean, what parent doesn't want teachers to have resources to serve all kids? And that first one? I'm just not understanding what that would look like.

Applying for Advanced Learning
Here's the latest and it's not all that clear but that's the SPS way.

Community meetings about the upcoming capital levy, BTA V and the Operations Levy.
Every three years, the district asks voters for money for Operations as well as for one of two expiring capital levies. This time it is for BTA V (Buildings, Technology, Academics/Athletics). The district - in its adorable way - doesn't tell you how much they are asking, just:

These levies are expected to be on the ballot in February 2022. They would replace the expiring levies and are not new taxes. (bold theirs)

One, the last Operations levy was $815M. The last BTA levy was $475M. I would expect the district to ask for more for each levy. So yes, not new levies and yes, not "new" taxes. But will you pay more? Highly likely. 

Meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and are expected to end at 7:30 p.m. or earlier.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Can’t make the online meeting? Meetings will be recorded and posted on the school levies webpage.
The webpage says the links to the meetings will be there a week before the meetings so that would be tomorrow, September 14th. If they are there, I will put them in.

"Survey" for Feedback for RFP for Superintendent Search
I saw the district has this feedback page. The first thing is your consent to give the feedback (odd) and then "demographics" where they ask for your name, how you are connected to SPS, phone number and email. That's NOT demographics, that's personal information. Also odd.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Teaching American History

 I wanted to revisit this subject after this truly wonderful speech at a Georgia school board meeting by parent, Melanie Moore. (Partial and all bold mine)

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Oh the Things You'll Learn - Operations Committee

 I am a bit behind but did want to update folks about what was in last month's Board Operations Committee meeting.

I hadn't heard of anyone who was running the Tech Department but, from the minutes, it appears there are two people. One is Carlos del Valle, Executive Director of Technology and Nancy Petersen, Director of Technology Infrastructure. Mr. del Valle's LinkedIn page says he's been in that position since November 2019. Maybe I lost track of hires during COVID. Ms. Petersen has been with the district for about 10 years with a different tech title. There's an interview with Mr. del Valle from November 2020 on the Technology recovery for SPS during COVID.

From the minutes of the previous Operations Committee meeting:

Thursday, August 26, 2021

And the Beat Goes On at the Broadview-Thomson Encampment

 The district had a meeting tonight at Broadview-Thomson K-8. I don't see it on the district's calendar but there were people there. 

Reporter Erica C. Barnett was live-tweeting and here is some of what she saw/heard. I'll add some comments in-between. 

Sad News at Aki Kurose Middle School

 Via The Seattle Times:


A 17-year-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries and a 14-year-old was in police custody after the two exchanged gunfire Thursday evening outside Aki Kurose Middle School in South Seattle, according to police. 

Seattle police spokeswoman Valerie Carson said the younger boy was sitting on the steps in front of the school about 6:30 p.m. when he was approached by the older boy. It appears they both had firearms, she said. 

The 17-year-old was struck multiple times and was lying in the street when officers arrived, she said.

So questions:

- How were there TWO underaged kids with guns? 

- School isn't even open so I wonder why they ended up at the school?

No comment from the district yet (at least on Twitter). 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Oh, the Things You'll Learn (Part Three)

The last Student Services, Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting was held on August 18th. 

Reviewing the minutes of the last SSC&I meeting on June 8th, a couple of items of interest:

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Oh the Things You Will Learn (Part 2)

 Next up, Executive Committee meeting held August 18th. 

Public testimony at school board meetings may be changing. In the minutes from their previous meeting, it was discussed using an online form rather than either email or phone-in. The minutes don't say whether it was noted that not all members of the public or parents/guardians have email capabilities. 

It includes the  proposed Board goals for 2021. Here's one. (Editor note: the table I had put in is not showing properly and I don't know how to fix that.)

"Reinsert humanness in our interactions with one another, staff, labor, community." Didn't know they had not been doing this. 


Superintendent Search
It appears that the work will start any time now with a selection in April/May 2022 and a new superintendent coming in July 1, 2022. Timetable:
  • They will be hiring a consultant for community engagement/RFP for headhunters by the end of August, 2021. 
  • By October, 1 they will publish the RFP. 
  • November, hire a search firm. 
  • December-April engage community and search
I'll just remind folks that there appears to be nothing in Superintendent Jones' contract that would prevent the Board from keeping him and/or hiring him thru the search process. 

New Website
There is a powerpoint in this committee's documentation about the new website. It claims that prior to the launch, it took 5-7 seconds to load a webpage and after the launch, 1.5-2 seconds. 

They say, "Post-Launch quality assurance and clean-up of the websites (on-going)." I hope so because there were too many broken pages.

Then there is a powerpoint for ITAC (Information Technology Advisory Committee) and selection of new members. I have a few thoughts as I was a member of the inaugural ITAC group. 

1) Executive Director and Executive Committee will jointly review committee applicants using an objective scoring rubric.

Wait, what? Before this, the membership was the domain of the head of Technology. Why would the Board get heavily involved in deciding the membership of this committee?

2) When I was on the committee - a co-chair actually - we were given an agenda, limited time to discuss any one issue and mostly led to votes that were not full fleshed out. Then, the head of Technology could go to the Board and say that this is how the ITAC group voted. It was appalling.

School Board Student Members
Yet another time waste for the Board AND, one of their own making. To explain,

In March of 2021, the Seattle School Board adopted Policy No. 1250, which creates School Board Student Member positions. Three Student Members will be selected in the 2021-22 school year for the inaugural cohort. The policy also provides that an accompanying Board Procedure will be developed to implement the selection, role, and support of Student Members.

The N-YC is the student group that initially brought Policy No. 1250 forward to Directors DeWolf and Hersey, inspired by the Angela Davis quote that “walls turned sideways are bridges.” N-YC members led the development of and the effort to get Policy No. 1250 passed.

Student school board members will not attend executive sessions or closed sessions, make or second motions or hold Board offices. 

Know what is missing? Student board members have no vote. That should be clearly stated and it's not. 

The Board will induct these students in late November. If these student voices are so important, why wait until the end of November?

While I think inclusion of student voices is good, I think this measure goes too far. Why?

  • Board policy has always given some student voice. Every Board meeting a student from one of the high schools gets to sit on the dais with the Board and give input. The first speaker spot on the testimony list is for a student from a high school. As well, if other student speakers want to speak, they will be given priority. 
  • The Board is collaborating with one youth group - the NAACP Youth Council - and that's troubling. 
  • What's also troubling is the amount of time the Board has spent on this. There is so much to cover and yet they created a new policy for student board members. 
  • These student board members will also be assigned to Board committees and expected to go to those meetings. One, it's difficult to get to JSCEE and I'm not sure how many students could get there. Maybe they will phone in? Second, these are detailed and tedious meetings; why would any student sit thru this and have an understanding of all the various issues discussed? 
  • The chair of the committee for any given student board member assigned to that committee has to serve as a mentor. 
  • Board Directors are expected to consider the opinions of school board student members before making decisions on district matters. I'm sure they will each and every time the Board votes, it will consult the student board members. 
  • For members of the Board who complain about how long meetings are, this will very much make all meetings longer. 

Oh, the Things You'll Learn

Update. Found out what the "Garfield Superblock" in the BTA V levy is. 

Robert Stephens, Jr. has been one of the voices pushing the public agencies who each control a section of the Garfield High School campus, Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, to fulfil a promise made back when the school was undergoing a major renovation that opened in 2008 that cost the district over $100 million. 

As part of the public process to approve building a new Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center, Seattle Public Schools had to be approved to get a variance in order to build fewer than the required number of off-street parking stalls. As part of that process, the district was required to provide a public benefit as a mitigation. 

That project was the Super Block improvement project. “The community was just forgotten about,” Stephens tells CHS. 

A center of these improvements is the Legacy and Promise Promenade. This pathway would fulfill the long-envisioned goal of connecting Horace Mann School, now home to Nova High School, just on the other side of Cherry Street, with the Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center in the center of the campus. 

Current estimates of the full cost for the Super Block project are $6 to $7 million; the coalition says they are expecting the school district to contribute around one million to the project. T

end of update

...when you ask for the documentation for Board committee meetings. 

As an informational aside, the Board has four committees - Operations, Curriculum, Instruction and Student Services, Audit&Finance and Executive. The first three are self-explanatory. The Executive Committee is led by the leadership on the Board (in this case, Chandra Hampson, president, Brandon Hersey, vice-president, and Member-at-Large, Lisa Rivera Smith). That committee goes over upcoming Board meeting agendas as well as state legislative agenda, resolutions,  etc. All four committees meet monthly.  The public is allowed to both Work Sessions and Board committee meetings but there is no public speaking time. 

Also to note, when the district has Work Sessions, you will be able to view the agenda AND the documentation online. You cannot for the Board committees and so you must request it. (This on the theory that "things could change" but I think it's to keep the public at bay.)

First up - Audit&Finance

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Seattle Schools' Advanced Learning - What Next?

 I follow a Seattle parent page on Facebook and several parents were asking about what Advanced Learning will look like in the coming years. The short answer? 

  1. Students currently identified as Advanced Learners will be transitioned to Highly Capable (Building Based Services) with differentiated services provided in the neighborhood school.

    Sweeping change is necessary to uproot systems born from institutional racism and move the district forward toward genuine and authentic, culturally responsive services that prioritize the needs of every student.


    There are four Phases for this work, the first starting in school year 2020-2021and continuing through in school year 2027-2028. The cohort model will continue until 2027-2028. 

    This is ONLY for K-5 services. It is unclear what happens in middle school where there is a scaled-down cohort model only for a couple of classes. High schools have no "HC" program per se - high schools have Advanced Placement classes or International Baccalaureate classes but those are available to all students anyway. 

Latest on Seattle Schools and Collective Bargaining

I've been reading a lot of chatter lately at a couple of sites about the negotiations between the district and the SEA (Seattle Education Association, the union that represents teachers). Here's what the district says (partial and bold mine):

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Talking Seattle Schools Superintendents and Board Members

A reader sent me this interesting list of all the SPS superintendents and board directors from the late 1880s on. 

It contains their years of service, when they served and racial background. One board director served for 32 years! And current director, Lisa Rivera Smith, is the district's first Latina member of the board. 

Of course, it wouldn't be SPS without a couple of errors. 

1) No notation that Jose Banda was the first Latino superintendent.

2) The terms of both Brandon Hersey and Zachary DeWolf expire this year, not in 2023. 

3) They don't note that Director DeWolf is the first openly LGBTQ male member and that Cheryl Chow was the first openly LGBTQ female member. (You could quibble if Chow was open about it but she didn't make it a secret. She just didn't talk about it as DeWolf does.)

Monday, August 09, 2021

Two Workshops Keep Board and Staff at Seattle Schools Busy

The Seattle School Board had a busy week last week. Several of them attended a Zoom conference, 2021 Harvard and Council of Great City Schools ABC Leadership Institute, lead by the Council of Great City Schools. The CGCS:

Seattle Schools and Its Website - Why Can't They Get It Right?

Today was the unveiling of the new look for Seattle Schools' website. I really had hoped - as I do each and every time they tinker with it - that it will be better. You know, more accessible, easy to find pages, etc. 

It's not. 

I always say that after a website is redesigned, go get someone who has NEVER used it and give them ten areas to find. I can tell that didn't happen this time.

I can say the home page looks more attractive. 

However:

Sunday, August 08, 2021

About Comments

 I have received several comments that I have not printed because:

- The comment was just an insult to me.

- I am having a problem with getting a duplicate of every comment (plus spam ones) and sometimes it's hard to keep up. If you think your comment was within the bounds of this blog, please ping me again.

- A comment was cryptic. Reader Cassandra sent a comment that I will partially reprint:

Since no one is allowed to argue with the district's diversity agenda, this is what we get. Torturers allowed to speak from positions of authority and paid from the district coffers. People afraid to speak up because they will be accused of racism.

Censor away, enabler.

I HAVE challenged the district's "diversity agenda" and reported on issues of race within senior leadership. 

But Cassandra also made a claim about a diversity training that is to happen at SPS and who is leading it. Looking at the district website, I can't verify that is happening. So Cassandra, if you can send me a link, I'll be happy to print your concerns. 

To note - I don't have an "ideological agenda to which people must acquiesce" but I do on civility. I know some might call that "weaponized civility" but I find that argument less than compelling. 

Friday, August 06, 2021

American History - What Will We Tell the Kids?

This is the last in the series on Critical Race Theory but there are now other elements to consider like teaching about equity and ethnic studies.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

And Then There Were Two

 Looking at the election results from yesterday’s primary, we see that in District 4  Vivian Song Maritz and Laura Marie Rivera beat current interim director Erin Dury handily. Maritz received 56.41%, Rivera received 23.18% and Dury received 11.10%  And Dury barely beat perennial candidate, Herb Camet, Jr. - he had 8.62% of the votes.

There were 82,883 registered voters for that region and just over 18% voted.

In the District 5 race, candidate Michelle Sarju hammered her opponents. She received 81.60% of the vote with her General Election opponent, Dan Harder, receiving 13.85% of the vote. The third candidate, Crystal Liston got 3.85% of the vote.

There are 74,051 registered voters for that region and about 17.51% of them voted. 

Interestingly, the race for mayor shows the same anemic numbers for voter turnout. Out of 493,453 registered voters, only 89,414 of those voted, which works out to just over 18%.

What do people think of the top vote getters in the mayor’s race, Lorena González Bruce Harrell? And the next two largest vote getters - Colleen Echohawk and Jessyn Farrell - who do you think they will endorse? 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

“Who Gets To Decide What is History”

 Well first, American history is NOT CRT because CRT is not curriculum. I have heard several people, including Seattle School Board candidate Michelle Sarju, say that it is. Nope.

The relationship between the two - from my reading of numerous articles - is that CRT is ongoing higher-ed level research about the impacts and outcomes to Black Americans from how our history was shaped by those who had the power to shape it. 

I’m willing to hear disagreements but I think we should all agree that CRT as a theory is not being taught in schools. Some of the discoveries within the CRT research - that other research has also found - are surely in many high school history or civics classes. Things like segregated schools,redlining, etc. 

But are we at a place in time where a teacher can be going over the history/purpose of federal holidays, come to our newest one - Juneteenth - and then can’t give an explanation as to its origins? Ridiculous.

What this looks like is fear. What is there to be fearful of?

Monday, July 26, 2021

People Are Funny

 As you are aware, I am screening all comments. It’s actually tiresome because I seem to get many spam comments. I have been pleasantly surprised at the very low number of attacks on me. 

I did get one recently on my post, Critical Race Theory, Where Are We Now? The commenter is a sad and pathetic person trying desperately to make herself relevant only to find that her mad dog attacks really don’t play well at OSPI and other venues. I mean if you wear giant earrings that say “F*** off” in an interview photo, it doesn’t make you that approachable. In other words, she’s her own worst enemy. 

And, she took down her own blog. Poof! It just disappeared. Of course there’s this thing called the internet where nothing really goes away plus another thing called screenshots. 

What I am coming to is that if your comment has nothing to do with the subject of a post or doesn’t add to the discussion, I won’t print it. You can disagree with me up and down a wall and I’ll print it. 

But do have something valid to say and share. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Seattle School Board Races 2021 - Seattle Council PTSA Forum

 I listened into the Seattle Council PTSA Seattle School Board forum Wednesday evening. It was eye-opening. All the candidates participated except for Crystal Liston in D5 and Genesis Williamson in D7. Candidate Herbert Camet, Jr. chose not to have video which would have helped and candidate Dan Harder had issues with his video, being sideways the entire forum. Sadly, there were only about 30ish other people listening in. I did notice that the president of the Seattle Special Education PTSA, Janis White, was listening in as well as Director Leslie Harris.

SCPTSA had all the candidates answer the same questions with varying amounts of time given to answer, depending on the question’s complexity. They stated that no questions had been shared with any candidate.

I won’t be transcribing all the answers (sorry) but I will try to give highs and lows from the forum. 

Who Might Leave Seattle Schools for Kent School District?

 Just tossing this out there to put on your radar.

Over the last couple of years, several senior SPS staff left to become superintendents in other parts of Washington State. They include Flip Herndon, Michael Tolley, Wyeth Jessee and Clover Codd. 

Now the beleaguer superintendent of the Kent School District, Calvin Watts, is leaving for a gig in an Atlanta-area district. 

I think there could be a couple of senior staffers still at SPS who might be considering applying. 

Maybe Keshia Scarlett, the Chief Academic Officer. I venture she might be happier with Brent Jones as SPS superintendent but she also filed a public complaint against Director Chandra Hampson and Director Zachery DeWolfe for acting in a racist manner towards her and mistreating her. DeWolfe may be going away come December but Hampson could still be a problem for her.

Maybe Sarah Pritchett, a former Executive Director but now a newly-appointed co-Deputy Superintendent with Carri Campbell for the new Office of Strategy Deployment and Responsiveness. I think she also is probably happy with Jones but hey, a gig all for her? Perhaps. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Critical Race Theory: Where Are We Now?

 Executive Summary:

- the Right- “That was then, this is now and everyone is equal. Oh, and we don’t see color.”

- the Left - “We need to teach the good, the bad and the ugly so our children don’t repeat past mistakes. Oh and anyone who doesn’t toe the line on how to do that is a racist.”

That was easy, no?

I have crammed a lot into this thread but I will do a separate thread on the challenges for American History/Civics teachers, a lot of it stemming from state legislatures and proposed/passed legislation.

Masks or No Masks; Delta Variant Makes It a Hard Choice

FYI from Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist. The Delta variant is a really troubling one. 

I did find the “ask your teacher if they are vaccinated” to be troubling. I think what could be helpful if schools could tell parents “75% of our staff is vaccinated.” But I doubt that will happen.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Hell Freezes Over

 Apparently former City Council member (and mayor for a minute) Tim Burgess endorsed the same two candidates for Seattle School Board as did …The Stranger. 

That would be Vivian Song Maritz in D4 and Michelle Sarju in D5. 

That’s quite the mind-meld. Or maybe they just are the best two candidates.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Seattle School Board Races Updates

One final chance to see the candidates for Seattle School Board before the primary election appears to be a forum put on by the Seattle Council PTSA.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Stranger Endorses Song Maritz and Sarju for Seattle School Board

 Today, The Stranger released its picks for races in the upcoming primary election. For Seattle School Board, they picked Vivian Song Maritz for D4 and Michelle Sarju for D5. I concur with both picks and I endorse Song Maritz. 

For Song Maritz, they like her finance background, her child of immigrants/first generation to go to college background and that having an Asian on the Board would bring more diversity.

The Stranger feels like Michelle Sarju has many talents and a firm knowledge of her region to bring to the Board. There’s also a funny story about one of her competitors who did show up for the interview. 

To note, there was a candidate forum for the D5 race this week put on by the League of Women Voters King County and Horizon House, a retirement apartment building for seniors. I’ll have a separate post on that.

In case you were wondering about the demographics of the Board and the district:

Board

2 Native Americans (Hampson and DeWolf, if elected Sarju, who is African American, would replace DeWolf)

1 Black (Brandon Hersey who is running almost unopposed for the seat he now holds as an interim)

1 Hispanic (Lisa Rivera Smith)

3 White (Leslie Harris, Liza Rankin and Erin Dury)

District (I rounded up)

Whites 46%

Hispanic 13%

Asian 13%

Black 15%

Native Hawaiian/Pacific Island - .40%

Native Americans - .42%

Monday, July 12, 2021

OSPI Seeks Input on Absence Reporting Changes

Provide your Feedback on the Absence Rule for Next Year

OSPI is proposing changes to Chapter 392-401 WAC – Statewide Definition of Absence, Excused and Unexcused. Find the proposed changes below. 

Please submit your comments by 5pm on July 27 to krissy.johnson@k12.wa.us.

Proposed Attendance Changes 2021-22

I am troubled by the changes in the section on expelled/suspended students. Plus, they want attendance taken twice a day in elementary. 

I am going to suggest a survey of parents/districts before changes.



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Seattle School Board This and That

This is just going to be a random assortment of items I have heard from recent meetings of the Board.

Friday, July 09, 2021

What Matters to the Seattle School Board?

So I listened in to the Board meeting Wednesday to listen to the discussion around the budget vote. (That’s a whole other post but I digress.) I caught Special Education PTSA president Janis White’s testimony about what seems to be a failure by the district for recovery services for Sped students mandated by OSPI. I also read Sped parent Mary Griffin’s post at the Special Education PTSA Facebook page about how, at the last Special Education PTSA meeting, staff promised clear info on summer school. Apparently that didn’t happen. But Sped parents shouldn’t feel badly because Director Harris, time after time, has asked for staff to PLEASE give the Board documentation in advance of meetings so directors can review it and ask pertinent question. Oh sure, says Superintendent Jones.

That she has made this request over and over should tell you something. She also asked for an org chart because the shift in jobs and titles and new positions is quite hard to track. 

But for Exhibit One of what the district cares about - before your children - is this recent article from the Seattle Times on the long-running saga of the homeless encampment at Broadview-Thomson K-8. 

To review:

Monday, June 28, 2021

Seattle Times Endorses Rivera and Sarju

 In what feels like somewhat toned-down endorsements, the Seattle Times has endorsed Laura Marie Rivera for the District 4 seat and Michelle Sarju for the District 5 seat.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Give Me An “F”, Give Me A “U”, Give Me A “C” - A Cheerleader’s Victory

As you may have heard, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down an opinion this week that a cheerleader’s rant on SnapChat after she did not make the varsity squad was speech protected by the First Amendment.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Critical Race Theory: How Did We Get Here?

After Barrack Obama became president, there was this after-glow as if “now we’re in a post-racial time in America.” But that wasn’t true, was it? 

Things changed in 2016 when Former Guy came into office. He took the lid off of what was already a simmering pot of injustice, spit into the pot and then watched it boil over.

The discussion around Critical Race Theory comes from this confluence of two things. The so-called woke movement and the very real white nationalist movement via the Former Guy. 


The white nationalist movement which desperately wants a continuation of the codification of the white gaze of U.S. History and knows that the way to keep that going is thru public education. And that means kids.


I may have used this paraphrased quote before - from Hitler, no less - “If I have the children, I don’t need their parents.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Chill in the Classroom

 Hello from sunny Arizona (it’s now down under 100 degrees so bearable but I see Seattle is heating up)!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Critical Race Theory

Time for a discussion. 

I had decided to research CRT (in this case, Critical Race Theory, but there is also Culturally Relevant Teaching) because of the tsunami of arguing, bill writing, etc. in the news. 

I am hoping to do this as a series of posts because there is a lot to cover. This first post - for those who would like to learn more - is made up of links to provide information, both pro and con. I do want to note that back in 2013-2014, SPS  had an issue with a teacher at The Center School, Jon Greenberg, who had been teaching about race and equity for a long time before one family objected. The SEA stood with Greenberg. 

What it seems to have come down to then, as in now, is teaching versus preaching. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Director Dury Community Meeting on Monday

It is great that SCPTSA has been lending a hand to directors in organizing community meetings. If you have joined one of these meetings, you can see there can be 50,75,100 participants (one meeting had 300 people!) This, of course, is far more any regular in-person meeting. However, I also see that SCPTSA tends to call on people we hear from all the time. And SCPTSA knows who these people are. 

And note to directors, it is YOUR job to make sure that multiple outlets know when you have a meeting. There is nothing about this at the SPS website. That’s on Director Dury. 

 Via SCPTSA Facebook page:

Dear Community,

The school year is almost over! Seattle Council PTSA is working with school board directors to set up community meetings to facilitate engagement with their constituents over the summer.

Last year we hosted a Student Town Hall with over 300 participants. We are working on a similar event - stay tuned!

We will be hosing a community meeting with Erin Dury, School Board Director for District 4 this coming Monday, June 21st from 6:30 to 8PM. Please join this opportunity to connect with Director Dury. Everyone is welcome. Priority will be given to schools in District 4:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

As the 2020-2021 Seattle School Year Wraps Up

 I see this week is the end of SPS’ school year and that means graduation. Congrats to ALL the graduates and their families. What a long and difficult year for all so kudos for all the hard work. Best wishes for all the grads!

On a less happy but no less serious note, the district has announced that remote learning for next year will ONLY be a pilot program. (Bold mine)

While we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure in-person learning is safe and welcoming for all students, we will also pilot virtual options for a small population of K-12 students. A virtual option for preschool students will not be offered. Starting with a small virtual option pilot will best promote the district's goals for racial equity and will provide important data and feedback should the district decide to develop larger scale future virtual learning options. 
 
For Fall 2021, there will be a limited number of students in grades K-12 who can participate in this virtual learning option. SPS will first ask students to consider this option if they can thrive academically in a fully remote learning setting. In addition, since the pilot will be small, we will need to determine a way to prioritize interested students. As a result, students with existing, documented health issues or concerns, including mental and emotional health concerns, will be prioritized for this virtual pilot. This may include: 
 
- Students with an underlying condition that increases their risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Students who live in a household where someone in the household is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Students who have a mental health issue or other condition.
- Students who experienced an increased sense of safety during remote learning.
 
 
For students who have existing health concerns that require virtual learning full-time in the fall, SPS will determine which school site(s) will provide the virtual pilot option and students selected for the virtual pilot will need to enroll in that designated school site.

Have a district-issued device? You’ll need to turn it back in and here’s the rather lengthy explanation of how to do that. 

Update on LGBTQIA+ Community Inclusion work. Many good things happening here. I am going to assume that parents were already notified at school about the SPS K-5 Gender Book Kit. I took a look at the kindergarten and fifth grade lessons. 

The feedback I would give about the kindergarten lesson is that the vocabulary appears to me to be over the heads of many kindergarteners (keeping in mind that I volunteered for three years in the same kindergarten classroom). I think “gender identity” is a tough one with both words not likely in a kindergartener’s vocabulary. 

As well, I found the definitions not quite true - compassion means “being a good friend?” The facilitator also uses “word” when explaining a phrase. Would that be confusing to a K or 5th grader? Maybe. Also, note to SPS, in the 5th grade lesson - Red, a Crayon’s Story - the word “fairly” is misspelled. 

A message from Superintendent Jones on Juneteenth is also in the news.

Lastly, a couple of queries about data I had mentioned in previous posts. Here’s the link for the last Board Work Session on both Enrollment and the 2021-2022 Budget. Enrollment data for every school starts on page 26. 

Use of the ESSER funds is in the Budget portion of the document, from pages 50-53.

Who’s on First in Seattle Schools

 Superintendent Brent Jones is certainly getting busy in a big way. From SPS Communications, an announcement of the newly-formed Office of Strategy Deployment and Responsiveness (SDR). This office will report directly to Deputy Superintendent Rob Gannon.

The Office of Strategy Deployment and Responsiveness will work to bring strategic alignment and coherence to district initiatives in support of student outcomes.

Providing cross-departmental and district-wide project management and coordination including timelines, deliverables, reporting channels, and ownership.

Monitoring deployment of strategies and providing system accountability to students, families, schools, and staff.

Developing and supporting a clear escalation path and resolution structure for key issues and decisions.

Ensuring alignment and a consistent, coordinated cadence of internal and external communications; and

Supporting district-wide knowledge management.

The first task of the new office is to support a successful Fall 2021.

I’ll venture that they have folded Public Affairs/Communication into this office but also coordination of various initiatives. The announcement is quite the word salad so I can only guess. I think this kind of wording has a two-fold use to the district . One is to sound full of purpose and action. Two is to avoid using regular wording that would allow parents - the consumers of this purpose and action - to understand what the district will be doing in the coming year. 

I find the leadership of this new office bewildering because there are two people who will head it and one of them is one of the worst Executive Directors of Schools (and that position may have a new name as well). 

Carri Campbell, former head of Communications, will now be Assistant Deputy Superintendent. Dr. Sarah Pritchett will also be an Assistant Deputy Superintendent. I don’t know who will do what between the two. 

The announcement touts Pritchett’s leadership but in more than a decade of watching her work, from afar and up-close, I have never heard one parent at any school say that she came into a situation at their school and helped mediate it to a conclusion. I was at one meeting and was astonished at how little she helped a tense situation. 

And naturally, I would assume with a new title comes a bump in salary. 

If you are keeping track, I believe that means SPS has one Deputy Superintendent (Rob Gannon), one Associate Superintendent (Concie Pedroza), two Assistant Deputy Superintendents (Carri Campbell and Sarah Pritchett). It will be interesting to see a final org chart. SPS used to have associate superintendents but that gave way to “chiefs” and now has come full circle.

Pedroza will oversee the merger of the divisions of Schools and Continuous Improvement and Student Support Services.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

An Overdose Death at the Broadview-Thomson Homeless Encampment

 There is a group called “We Heart Seattle”, led by Andrea Suarez, who have been very good at working with the homeless. 

Andrea reports on their Facebook page that a man named Nicholas Bjarnson overdosed at the encampment next to Broadview-Thomson K-8 on May 28th. He was 35 years old. 

In her posts, Ms. Suarez seems unhappy with “turf wars” and said, “Keeping people, especially addicts, comfortable in parks, on schoolyards or anywhere until they are ready is nothing short of assisted suicide. Please wake up Seattle.”

We Heart Seattle’s mission statement:

Seattle Schools and 2021-2022 Enrollment

 Earlier this week, I put up the link and info about Enrollment/Budget per the Work Session this week on that topic. Here’s the link and what I had seen in the documentation at that time. I listened into the Enrollment portion of the Work Session yesterday. (I will say that the budget looks pretty bad and they are going to use ESSER money to mitigate.)

Sunday, June 06, 2021

SPS Work Sessions, June 7-11, 2021


There are a couple of Work Sessions this week. Luckily, with Work Sessions, staff does attach the documentation (which they do not for Board committee meetings).

The first one is Monday, June 6th. Capital Programs Semi-Annual Report; Student Assignment Transition Plan and Boundaries Agenda and documentation here.

I confess I have not yet read the documentation on this one yet - it’s 95 pages. 

SPS HAS opened up in-person meetings but you need to register in advance. Details on the agenda.

The next one is Wednesday, Annual Enrollment Report and Capacity Evaluation; Budget.

This and That in Seattle Public Education

One interesting development over this year is not just the churn of employees in senior leadership leaving but the addition of new positions.

For example, Dr. Concie Pedroza, who was head of Student Services, has now been made associate superintendent. So SPS has both a deputy superintendent (Rob Gannon) AND an associate superintendent? I do hope to find out their salaries because it’s rare at SPS to either be in a new position and not be well-paid OR bumped up and not get a raise.

Homeless Camp Update

 It appears the volume is going higher on the situation at Broadview-Thomson K-8 over the homeless encampment on district property next to the school.

Here comes this article from the Urbanist where most of the candidates for mayor weigh in. Bruce Harrell, who did spend a lot of time on the Seattle City Council and knew about homeless issues then, weighs in:

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Maybe Start a Betting Pool?

Who is going to blink first - Mayor Jenny Durkin or Board President Chandra Hampson? 

I ask because the homeless situation in Seattle seems to be escalating so what of the homeless encampment at Broadview-Thomson K-8?

Monday, May 31, 2021

36th Democrats Endorsement Committee Interviews with School Board candidates

 I listened so you don’t have to but really, give each candidate 5 minutes so you can see what you think. Each interview is about 20 minutes. They interviewed all the candidates for District 4 except for one, just one candidate for District 5 and none of the District 7 candidates. Here’s the link to their interviews; just scroll down to find the School Board candidates.

One funny aside, two members of the 36th Dems endorsement committee said “bachelorette” for “baccalaureate.” It lightened the mood.

Board Meeting on Wednesday Night.

 There’s a regular Board meeting this Wednesday, June 2nd. Reviewing the agenda, I see that more and more items - especially BEX/BTA items - are on the Consent agenda. The Consent Agenda is for items usually reviewed in committee and previously introduced at a Board meeting. Putting multiple items on the Consent agenda for action means the Board won’t be discussing any of them further and the vote is a package deal for all the items. 

When the Board has a particularly lengthy agenda, this is okay. But there are watchdogs like Chris Jackins who pours over these items and frequently has useful comments to make but can’t because those items are on the Consent agenda. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Seattle Schools and Planning for Reopening for Fall 2021

 The Board had a “special meeting” yesterday afternoon to vote on a reopening plan. The Board rarely has this types of meetings because when all seven of them are together AND voting outside of a regularly scheduled Board meeting, it’s a big deal. (Director Harris was calling in from a beach and Conzie Pedroza, head of, said she, too, was on vacation.)

Why this reopening plan now? In a word, OSPI. The State Superintendent’s office required all districts to submit a reopening plan - per OSPI template - by June 1st. 

Here’s an overview with the link to the plan from the district’s webpage about this action.

The biggest takeaway that district staff told the Board was that this plan is NOT the entire plan and staff are still working on that. Rob Gannon, Deputy Superintendent, said this is a plan but it is “not comprehensive.” He said there is more engagement to come and this is “just a moment in time.”

The district promised a FAQ on June 7th.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Seattle School Board - A Roundup of Who is Running

The great folks at the 36th Dems invited all candidates for an endorsement interview before their Elections committee so here’s a link. Makes for interesting listening. The 36th will take a vote of their membership tonight and I’ll have an update here tomorrow.

Candidates - if one media outlet does a profile of a single candidate, you have the right to ask for an interview as well, especially if it is local media.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

SPS Continues Its Long History of Rushed Surveys; Is OSPI Getting the Real Story?

 Seattle Schools, like all school districts in Washington State, are required to submit a reopening plan to OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction). 

In the Board agenda for the May 19th, we see SPS’ plan. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Seattle Schools - The State of K-5 Math

As I mentioned in another post, the minutes from the Board’s committee meetings are being written in a manner that makes it difficult to ferret out information. But what IS useful is when staff comes with a presentation so the entire thing gets uploaded and attached as documentation.

I was looking at the documentation for last week’s Student Services, Curriculum & Instruction meeting, agenda here.  

Under “Special Attention Items,” we see K-5 Mathematics. The adopted curriculum is Math in Focus. I’ll cut to the chase but flesh out details below  - Math in Focus is NOT being used in any real way in elementaries. 

Here are the basics on Math in Focus in SPS (except for the cost but we’ll get to that).

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Broadview-Thomson K-8 School Encampment: Hubris and Inaction May Mean Trouble

Update: now I hear (from a trusted source) that a person who lives in the encampment at B-T K-8 came into the building and tried to take a backpack. The school went into lockdown. 

This is nuts.

End of update

Editor’s note: I apologize for the wonkiness of the look of this story. In the time I stepped away from blogging, I think Blogger changed some formatting and I’m struggling to understand it. 

As most of you know, the district reopened schools and three schools had homeless encampments on or nearby their campuses. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Who’s Running for Seattle School Board?

 As of May 17th at 3 pm, it’s pretty sparse.

For Eden Mack’s seat in District 4, only interim director Erin Dury has filed. 

For Zachary DeWolf’s  seat in District 5, no one has filed. DeWolf declined to run again which was probably wise as he would have lost. 

For Betty Patu’s seat in District 7, only interim director Brandon Hersey has filed to run. 

Per this story from the South Seattle Emerald, Michelle Sarju announced her candidacy for the District 5 seat but it appears she has not yet filed with King County Elections. She is endorsed by Zachary DeWolf which normally I would consider a bad thing but as I said the last time she filed (and then withdrew), she’s an intriguing candidate who I believe would be her own person. 

I feel sure that there will be challengers to Hersey and at least one will probably be Emijah Smith who lost to him during the appointment process for that District 7 seat. 

And I hope there are other candidates than Dury for District 4 because 1) I think every race should have two people in it and 2) Dury should have to fight for that seat.

The final day for filing is May 21st. Updates to follow.

Remote Learning - What Have We Learned?

 Update from Massachusetts:

Beginning May 29th, masks will no longer be needed at recess, students can begin sharing school items in the classrooms, and no masks for outdoor activities. 


Via Twitter today:

No remote education option next year in NJ. "All students will be back in school for full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. Full-time remote learning option for families will be removed."

I’m not sure that is a good idea for the next school year but, as states make their own choices, we’ll all have a front row seat to see how it works out.

One item to note - even before COVID, districts around the country were absolutely trying more online learning and some of it WAS remote. For example, here’s flipped learning:

Flipped Learning is a framework that enables educators to reach every student. The Flipped approach inverts the traditional classroom model by introducing course concepts before class, allowing educators to use class time to guide each student through active, practical, innovative applications of the course principles.

That “before class” means the student works at home - remotely - thru a lesson to start the learning of concepts which the teacher then fleshes out in class. 

I think both teachers and administrators have learned quite a bit from the pandemic time which is a good thing, given we could have more pandemics or disasters where students cannot be in a school building  

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Seattle Council PTSA Meeting with Dr. Jones

 There were about 75 participants at the Seattle Council PTSA’s meeting last week with new superintendent, Dr. Brent Jones. Included in that count were Board members Lisa Rivera-Smith, Liza Rankin and Chandra Hampson.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Guest Post - HCC and SPS

 Editor’s note: I’m happy to publish any essays about SPS or public education in general. This one is from Megan Hazen who has three children in Seattle Schools.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Super Brent Jones at PTSA Meeting Tonight

 Via the Seattle Council PTSA Facebook page;

WELCOME DR BRENT JONES!

Seattle Council PTSA is delighted to invite our school communities to virtually meet our incoming Superintendent Dr Brent Jones.

Please join the conversation this coming Thursday, May 6th from 6:30 to 8PM. Dr Jones will share his vision for Seattle Public Schools and community will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer their comments on the most pressing issues our school communities are currently facing.

Please help us spread the word within your communities. Close captions will be available. If anyone is in need of language interpretation, please email president@scptsa.org by Monday, May 3rd.

Hope to see you there!

Welcoming Superintendent Brent Jones

Time: May 6, 2021 6:30 to 8 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/96689631427?pwd=c0R2czN2L3kveDJMdWp2WXVXa0FJdz09

Meeting ID: 966 8963 1427

Passcode: 058654

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

This and That District News

 From SPS Communications via Twitter today:

1/2) Student transportation is impacted by several factors that SPS is working to address. These challenges make it impossible to provide transportation to all eligible students at this time.


(2/2) If additional bus drivers become available, we will focus on establishing limited transportation based on the highest needs. The Transportation Department is also looking into alternative solutions to provide families as many options as possible.


Also, of interest, SPS is to have an official deputy superintendent. This would be Rob Gannon who worked for several years for King County, left and moved to Montana and somehow Superintendent Brent Jones (who also worked for King County) got him to come back. I have to say that Mr. Gannon looks very qualified. I sense from this appointment that Jones will leave a lot of the operational issues to Gannon and Jones will work on social justice issues and be the public face for SPS.


FYI, the district has changed some questions in the student survey. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The New Way in Seattle Schools

 What the “New Way?” Encompassing the entire district, we see changes aplenty with near zero explanation. I’ll start but do chime in with yours.

- Minutes of committee meetings. Man, these are starting to look like charter school board meeting minutes. Which is to say, sparse and just the facts (and maybe not even all the facts). 

Brent Jones Speaks

 Here is the first public statement from new superintendent, Brent Jones. As statements go, it’s about what you would expect but some editing might have helped. 

One key item - he does not say schools will reopen in their buildings in September. He just vaguely talks about “prepare for fall.” 

Also of interest is the fill-in form to contact him available at the district’s website.

Dear Seattle Public Schools Families: 

Monday, May 03, 2021

Advanced Learning to Change

 The Seattle School Board and the district are poised to change the Advanced Learning program in a major way. Interestingly, the BAR (Board Action Report) on this change has a fairly bland title - Rename and Amend Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning.

I am NOT advocating for anyone to write to the Board because this was a done deal a long time ago. 

The district is going to have a new enactment of Highly Capable Services (kicking out the wording “Advanced Learning”) and having “building-based services” in General Education classrooms rather than separate cohort groupings. There may or may not be other eligible students in the class. There is a carve-out for “upper edge” students. (See below.)

What Did I Miss?

 Why hello there! Long time, no see. 

I first want to acknowledge and bow my head to all that has happened to our country and countries throughout the world  I have continued to monitor several parent Facebook pages and one WA state teacher page (not WEA). It has been a deeply frustrating, frightening, exhausting time for teachers, parents, and students. I cannot imagine being a parent who has to keep explaining, month after month, why your child cannot go back to school, go be in sports, play with friends, etc. Or a teacher who has to flip learning on its head, keeping it going as the teachers ALSO learn. And administrators who had to try to figure out how to serve and keep a school community together. When I think of the kindergarten class that I tutored in for three years, I cannot imagine having small children try to comprehend their schooling on a screen. 

I most of all feel sadness for students. School is their second life, their second home and where  a lot of teaching and learning beyond the classroom happens. I acknowledge that some children faced far more injury than others but I know that ALL kids suffer from this time and that should be noted. 

I urge you to have your child either dictate their thoughts to you or have them write about their COVID experience. This is an important time to document, if only for your family’s future generations.You can tell your children - no one ever gets to pick the history that they live through but other generations will want to hear their stories.