What to Make of All This Verbage

The Seattle School Board briefly met on June 10th but only to amendment the 2023-2024 Board meeting schedule. Basically, because of the issues from the fatal shooting at Garfield High School, the Board and the Superintendent Brent Jones decided to cancel the scheduled Board meeting where the Superintendent was expected to give his preliminary list of schools to be closed. (They also met in Executive Session but unclear what that was about). 


On that issue of the Garfield shooting:

- Garfield's graduation is on Monday evening at Memorial Stadium. If you have a child graduating from Garfield, let us know how it goes.

- I have not seen any mention of when Amarr Murphy-Paine's funeral is. From the Times:

A picture of 17-year-old Amarr Murphy, who played for the Bulldogs’ varsity football team, seen on a candle at a Garfield High memorial in Seattle on Saturday, June 8, 2024. Murphy was shot and killed trying to break up a fight between two boys Thursday afternoon in front of the Quincy Jones Performance Center.  (Ivy Ceballo / The Seattle Times)

Amarr Murphy-Paine, the 17-year-old shot and killed last week outside Garfield High School, was described as a resilient football player, an aspiring rapper, a lovable kid, someone who was still finding his voice.

Reggie Witherspoon Jr., the former head football coach at Garfield, said he coached Murphy-Paine for three years at the school and had known him since the boy was 11 and played youth ball with his own son.

“He is an outstanding kid with a big heart to please those around him that he genuinely cares about. I saw that as a mentor and I saw that amongst his peers as well,” Witherspoon Jr. said, recalling Murphy-Paine as “a lovable kid, always smiling.”

- It appears students will not be able to leave campus for lunch for the rest of the year and there will be a couple of extra security officers at the building. There will also be drop-in counseling available.

- In the Seattle Times, the Superintendent said this:

“This is a season to heal,” Superintendent Brent Jones said to the gathering. “Next will be a season to come up with strategies.”

Really? Isn't that what he said after the Ingraham shooting? And it's going to take "a season" to get around to doing anything? Just astonishing how he thinks words are going to do much.

What have other cities done? From the Times:

In Chicago, for example, community members created a safe transit route for students, staffing the corners where students are often dropped off the bus, said Odis Johnson Jr., executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools. Other districts have printed QR codes that allow students to submit anonymous safety tips to school administrators, said Trump. 

It’s important for schools to have 24/7 counseling and support in the immediate aftermath, Brown said. Some schools have installed trauma therapists in a section of their building where students can make appointments. And most important, schools should prioritize what students say is the best path forward.

Here's what President Liza Rankin said (finally) about the shooting:

"The rescheduling of the meeting is due to a number of things, but the greatest overriding need was the demand that we need to insist on keeping as a board, which is centering everything that comes to us and everything that we do in this district on students which includes responding to tremendous tragedy and loss. 

We are all hurting and angry and sad and wanting to act. But action that springs from hurt and anger is not likely to meet the needs from where the hurt comes.

And there is no hurt, anger, or need that could be felt more acutely than by Amarr Murphy's family right now, his friends, and his community. 

And we urge the Seattle community to center their experience in your heart and your mind. And center their response and follow their lead in the wake of the tragedy to another child taken by gun violence. There's a lot more to talk about, more to come.

But in this moment, we need to honor the community that is the most impacted and allow space and time to grieve and to ask for what they need, and to be ready to respond."

Now that's an impressive world salad. That one phrase "action that springs from hurt and anger is not likely the meet the needs from where the hurt comes?" What the hell is that? Act with all deliberate speed? 

And fyi, no way that Rankin wrote those words.

On the issue of the cancelled Board meeting

- The cancelled Board meeting has been moved to Wednesday, June 26th. The Board meetings are generally on Wednesdays but this meeting will be huge because 1) the Superintendent is to finally submit his preliminary list for school closures and 2) immediately following the meeting, there will be the legally required Board hearing for the 2024-2025 budget.

The School Board is being asked to adopt the 2024-25 Recommended Budget as required in RCW 28A.505.130. This adoption includes approval of operating transfers from the Capital Fund to the Debt Service Fund up to the amount of $3,158,783; transfers from the Capital Fund up to the amount of $55,667,715 to the General Fund; and an interfund loan from the Capital Fund to the General Fund of
$27,500,000. The final budget reflects the culmination of budget development work that started in September 2023. This was a public process that included several School Board work sessions.

On December 13, 2023, the Board passed Board Resolution 2023/24-7, directing the Superintendent to develop a Fiscal Stabilization Plan for 2024-25 and 2025-26. Among other items, the resolution authorized the Superintendent to incorporate the use of an interfund loan or other short-term borrowing program(s) into the Fiscal Stabilization Plan. The resolution also authorized the Superintendent to consider and research delayed repayment of the Economic Stabilization Account.

On May 8, the Board adopted Resolution 2023/24-8, authorizing an interfund loan to the Seattle Public Schools’ General Fund from its Capital Fund; authorizing an amendment to the repayment plan of the Economic Stabilization Account; and authorizing the use of capital fund interest earnings for instructional supplies, equipment, or capital outlay purposes.

The 2024-25 General Fund Budget is recommended at $1,252,959,867. 

The 2024-25 Capital Fund is recommended at $589,811,449.

- I was a bit appalled to find out in the West Seattle Blog that Director Gina Topp had been notified of the cancelled meeting but not told why.  Apparently former director Leslie Harris was at the Topp community meeting:

Former board member Harris said she’s skeptical that closing 20 schools can really save $40 million, and is also disturbed by Topp and other board members not being clearly informed about the reason for tonight’s meeting cancellation. Previous closure proposals, she observed, involved more community outreach.

A short time later, Topp said she is disappointed at having to wait longer to hear the plan, but she’s optimistic that the delay means the superintendent and his team are taking time to incorporate more community feedback. 

Really? I love that belief that the Superintendent and his team give a rat's ass what community has to say. Because parents at the meeting complained about it being hard to get answers from the district.

“That’s the thing we hear over and over again,” agreed Topp, “how can the district communicate better with families?”

 It was also noted at this meeting that SPS has a lobbyist for the Legislature, Cliff Traisman. Mr. Traisman had been in that job decades; maybe it's time for a change.

- I note that the cancelled Board meeting agenda shows no fewer than 15+ items on the Consent agenda because this Board doesn't want to put in the oversight work. One item is a contract with a local firm, Moss Adams, for MA to aid the Board "in completing its transition to a policy governance model." The contract is for $40K. Is that a huge amount? Not really but that the Board thinks that this IS the work that is most important is jaw-dropping. 

- Also on the agenda was an Intro/Action item to give the Board the power for "authorization to negotiate a revised contract with the Superintendent." Here's what the BAR says:

The existing employment agreement for the Superintendent was approved by the Board on March 11, 2022, with an initial term running through June 30, 2024. Pursuant to the contract, the term will be renewed for a one-year term, through June 30, 2025, because the Board did not vote before November 15, 2023, to not renew the contract. 

I don't believe that any of this was made public before. I knew that Jones' contract was only for two years and so would need to be negotiated soon. Continuing:

The annual base salary established in Dr. Jones’s employment contract is $335,000. The contract further provides that, “[f]or each ensuing year of employment, and not later than the first legislative meeting of the Board in June, the Board, following discussions with the Superintendent, shall determine whether to increase this annual salary.”

This action would authorize the Board President to negotiate contract revisions, inclusive of the annual salary, consistent with this provision of the contract. The maximum contract term allowed under state law (RCW 28A.400.010) is three years. 

b. Alternatives The alternative is for Dr. Jones to continue serving as Superintendent under the terms of the existing employment contract, which automatically renews for a one-year term extending through June 30, 2025.

This is not recommended. Dr. Jones is a highly sought-after leader in education and should be compensated as such, in both salary and commitment, to retain his leadership in Seattle.

Is he? How does the Board know this and also how do taxpayers know this? It certainly hasn't been from the Board communicating with the community. 

So in the midst of crying poor to the city and the state, the Seattle School Board will vote to give the Superintendent more money. 


On closures

In yet another story in the Seattle Times:

- While only 20 yet-to-be-named elementary schools are targeted for closure, the impact will be felt in nearly every K-5 building. That’s because SPS intends to redraw attendance boundaries broadly. Only “a handful” of schools might emerge unscathed by the changes, according to Fred Podesta, the district’s chief operations officer.

That means a student who now attends a school that will not close could still end up changing schools in the 2025-26 academic year.


Some principals, maintenance workers and office and food service workers may lose their jobs. It’s unclear how many will be displaced permanently, transfer to new buildings, or replace retiring workers elsewhere in the district. And the situation for teachers is even more murky since some would presumably move with their students to new schools. 

This has the attention of the Seattle Education Association, who represents many district employees.


Other happenings

- A Kent junior at Kent-Meridian High School was killed by an off-duty security guard who thought Hazrat Ali Rohani had a gun. From the Seattle Times:

The boys were heading into the store that night to return a malfunctioning airsoft gun, court records show. 

Surveillance camera footage reviewed by police showed one of the teenagers placing his airsoft gun on the ground before he and Rohani raised their empty hands in the air. Prosecutors said Myers then tackled the first boy and fired at Rohani.

“At that point, you’re just looking for a murder,” Vasquez said. “He should’ve called the police instead of trying to take things into his own hands.

Myers allegedly tackled one of the boys before shooting Rohani at least seven times. The teenager dropped to the ground, clutching his abdomen and calling out for his mother, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Just days before, Kent police found 18-year-old Cristopher Yahir Medina Zelaya dead with a gunshot wound to his head in a parking lot near campus on June 3. 

So very sad.

- The Ingraham High shooter has pleaded guilty according to the Seattle Times. The 14-yeart old shooter - whose name has not been revealed - "will be incarcerated in a juvenile rehabilitation facility until his 21st birthday. He will then be eligible for two years of parole supervision following his release, per the requirements of new state laws."

 - From KUOW - King County prosecutors have notified schools of 69 felony gun charges against students


Anonymous said…
You’re absolutely right that SPS needs a new lobbyist. I get that they like the Mariners box he seems to get through his wife who’s a Mariners VP, but it seems like the whole purpose of a lobbyist is to deliver for the client, and I can’t think of a single Legislative win that has benefited SPS in decades. I hear Legislators don’t even like him.


Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Breaking It Down: Where the District Might Close Schools

Who Is A. J. Crabill (and why should you care)?