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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.

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.