Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kids Not Cuts Gets Political

Update: Below this letter is the Board's response which I consider disingenuous.  The district is NOT cutting these jobs; they are moving them from one building to another.  Maybe I'm missing something.

Also: following Dems debate, Bernie Sanders was the only candidate to mention education in his opening remarks.

end of update

Editor's Note: the Board apparently wrote back and seemingly was not happy with the input from the delegation.  I will post when I receive.  Also, I note that Rep. Reuven Carlyle, Speaker Frank Chopp, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and Senator Jamie Pedersen did not sign this letter. Pedersen and Carlyle are SPS parents.

Washington State Legislature
Sherry Carr, President
Seattle School District Board of Directors MS 11-010
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Re: Staff Reassignments 

Dear Board President Carr, 

And How Many Cookies to Save Teachers at 25+ Schools?

Tuesday Open Thread

From City of Seattle:

"...We still have trees in need of good homes! If you, a friend, neighbor, or family member have room in the yard for a beautiful Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), grand fir (Abies grandis), or willow oak (Quercus pehllos), please let me know. The yard tree application is still open and we're still accepting applications for these lovely yard trees. Send your friends to our website to learn more.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I look forward to seeing you at the workshop on October 24th!
Katie Gibbons
Seattle reLeaf Project Manager
(206) 684-3979

Hearing from the Kids Not Cuts group that one school, having gone to their principal about the staff cuts, he/she directed them to the Ex. Director for that region, Sarah Pritchett.  Ms. Prichett's office is refusing to take messages, directing them back to their principal.  That directly goes against the established protocol AT the district's website.  As well, appealing to the board director of that region, Stephan Blanford, has gotten no answer as well.

Very disturbing and "talk to the hand" stuff.

In the "Brother, can you spare a reader" category, ed blogger Mercedes Schneider reports:

On September 03, 2014, I wrote a post about Education Post, a nonprofit set up to pretty much just operate a pro-corporate-reform-promoting blog. Upon start-up, EdPost scraped together $12 million.
Now that’s one expensive blog.

It turns out that billionaire Eli Broad convinced Peter Cunningham, former communications official for (freshly resigned) US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to run the cushy, pro-privatization blog operation.

EdPost has been in operation for just over a year, and it seems that Cunningham can’t seem to attract what he cannot purchase:


Are you a worrier?  What about your kid?  Relax, you are probably a creative genius.  

Tonight is the first look at the Democratic candidates for President.  It's on CNN at 5:30 pm PST.    Wonder if public ed will come up at all?

What's on your mind?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Alki Gets Money to Retain Staff (from a complete stranger)

Update: Kids Not Cuts leader, Chandra Hampson, had an interview on KIRO radio this morning.  (It's brief and starts at about minute 23:00.  But, the reporter said that the district said "nothing is final."  So I'm hoping that is true.  More to come.

end of update

From the West Seattle blog:

The West Seattle school that was crowdfunding to try to save a teacher from being cut has apparently met its goal. After receiving e-mail announcing that the Alki Elementary fundraising drive had reached its goal thanks to a $70,000+ donation, we checked the crowdfunding page, and the donation is listed there.

Seattle Schools Central Administration Spending

From Reader 47:

From the 2015/16 Budget book (pg44)

CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION Actual 2013/14 Adopted 2014/15 Recommended 2015/16
  • Board of Directors $4,377,610 $2,603,840 $4,270,653
  • Superintendent's Office $5,263,869 $5,515,745 $6,418,660
  • Business Office $5,790,899 $6,207,175 $6,980,623
  • Human Resources $4,685,999 $4,705,558 $5,283,638
  • Public Information $490,227 $500,189 $623,449
  • Superv. of Instruction $11,886,009 $14,331,199 $16,131,620
  • Super.Nutrition Services $766,624 $916,965 $904,898
  • Super Transportation $1,125,084 $1,648,618 $1,876,805
  • Super Maint and Operation $836,484 $1,010,144 $1,093,617

TOTAL CENTRAL ADMIN $35,222,804    $37,439,433   $43,583,963

By my calculations, that's about a $6 million increase in Central Admin - what could the schools (remember them, the places kids go) do with that?!

Editor's note: I do not believe this includes Central Office which is different from Central Administration.

Hit the Pause Button on October Staff Cuts

Sent to the Board this morning:

Dear Directors,

You have an Executive Ctm Meeting of the Whole on Wednesday.  I am asking you to please consider 10 minutes to discuss hitting the pause button on the extensive cuts that affect schools in every single region that the Board covers. 

You have it within your power - having an advertised public meeting of the whole - to ask the Superintendent to not make these cuts until they have been clearly and transparently explained to parents.  I just sent Ken Gotsch these questions at the end of this e-mail. Do you know the answers to all of these?  If not, hit the pause button.

At the very least, you need to commit to a policy to end October surprise staff cuts like these.  Senior staff have pointed out that these happen in other districts as well.  But other districts ALSO now have policies against doing this.  SPS should as well.

Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

Letter to Ken Gotsch, CFO

Dear Ken,

I am working with the parent leaders from various schools over the staffing cuts announced last week.  I know you have given of your time to several parents in order to explain the situation.  But it continues to be murky and honestly, this is not good.  Parents are losing faith in what they hear from senior staff.  To that end, I'm asking for clarification on some issues. 

1) In Jan of 2014 you said this:

The WSS committee which includes both Central Office and school staff, examined the WSS formula, which makes up 53% of school funding. We looked at deciding on the best revisions to WSS if we have to make school-based reductions ranging between $3 million, $6 million and $9 million this year.

What is the current WSS formula being used?  I tried to search for it at the SPS website but cannot find it. 

2) I note that Superintendent Nyland said at the Board meeting that hiring and trips are to be curtailed at headquarters.  Could you be more specific about what that looks like -  are trips being cancelled or just not scheduled, does that apply to STR, the Board, the Superintendent and senior staff?  What kind of money will that save?

3) And clearly, hiring will continue (I see there are still jobs today at the SPS website) so what does "curtailing" hiring look like?

4) What the less-than-anticipated enrollment will actually cost (not just the lost revenue; but the net after not providing for those students)?

5) What are the implementation costs to the cuts - having fewer teachers for lunch/playground supervision, loss of instructional time, kid anxiety over classroom switches, decreasing resources for high-need kids.  How is that all being calculated? 

6) Parents understand that because of the underenollment of about 589 students, the district is not getting money it anticipated.  What they don't understand is how the cuts can be made (to save money) and yet the teachers/staff are retained and placed elsewhere (which is continued spending). 

I appreciate your time and hope to hear from you.

Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

Indigenous Peoples Day 2015 in Seattle

Indigenous-Peoples-Day-Celebration--8.5x11 (3)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Seattle Public Education This Week

Monday, Oct. 12th
Board Curriculum&Instruction meeting from 4:30-630 pm at JSCEE.  Agenda
- there's a Race to the Top grant for the Seattle Teacher Residency.  The Board should reject this.  Why?  Because the relationship with one partner for the STR, the Alliance for Education, is tenuous and the district may be left holding the bag for this project.  I think that the district had the right idea but, like most district initiatives, did not have the long-term planning or backing to fulfill the mission.
- Did you know our district has NO "Instructional Philosophy?"  Apparently not, as a new Board Policy A.01.00, has been written.  Sigh. Yes, that's the most important thing to get done.
- High School Credit for World Languages (this is for both students who have taken a language as a second language and those whose first language isn't English and can receive credit for what they know in that second language).
- Special Ed program review
-Elementary Math implementation

Please Join Eckstein’s PTSA for a Seattle School Board Candidate Forum! Mon, Oct 12th, 7:30-9:00 pm, Eckstein Auditorium. Do you know who you're voting for on Nov 3rd? Come learn more about the eight Seattle School Board candidates and what they think about the issues that matter - from school funding to standardized testing. The Eckstein Middle School PTSA, in collaboration with Eckstein students, is pleased to welcome parents, teachers, kids and community members to a moderated forum with Seattle’s candidates for School Board. Everyone is welcome! Eckstein Auditorium. If you have questions for the candidates that you'd like to submit in advance, please send an email to kendall.levan@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 13th
Half-Baked Bake Sale from 11 am- 1 pm outside of JSCEE to call attention to teacher/staff cuts.  Step up to support this effort because 1)parents should stand united against cuts to any school because cuts for ANY kids are wrong and 2) next time it could be YOUR school.

Wednesday, October 14th
Executive Meeting of the Whole, 4:30-6:15 pm at JSCEE - main topic: Seattle Pre-K program with special topic - Alliance for Education.  Uh oh.

Work Session - 2015-16 Board Governance Priorities, Superintendent Evaluation Instrument and SMART Goals, 6:15-8:00 pm at JSCEEAgenda

Thursday, October 15th
Washington State Charter Commission meeting, 10 am-5 pm - STAR Center Voyage Studio, 3873 S 66th Street, Tacoma.  Agenda
- Supreme Court charter school ruling
- Commission operation and finances
- Annual Report to the Board of Education
- Charter Schools update

School Board Candidate Forum,  Nathan Hale Government classes are putting on a student led Election Forum the evening of Thursday, October 15th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center involving candidates for Seattle School Board and would like to invite you, your friends and your neighbors to attend. Candidates will make short opening statements, respond to questions from students, and then make a short summary statement. Be an informed citizen and attend!

I want to give a shout-out (and perhaps a heads up to candidates) about the Hale seniors.  At each Board meeting, the first speakers slot is given to one high school.  Last week it was Hale and the students brought up a VERY good point.

Several Boards ago, a policy was passed on what kind of food could be sold at high schools.  Soda was banned and there were more juice and milk products.  The vending machine money went to ASB and was a big source of revenue especially for high schools that didn't have as many fundraising opportunities (RBHS went to nearly zero dollars.)

At that time, high school students rose up, complained and complained, and finally, a few years back, they were PROMISED the revenue from calendar advertising (another policy put into place).  Guess who never saw that revenue?  ASB.  And what is that revenue spent on? No idea.

I hope the students extract a promise from the candidates on this issue.  I note that BTA IV has some kind of slogan, "Promises made, promises kept."  A big of an irony that makes many promises and promptly forgets about them.

Parents Rising - Dear Directors

Dear Directors,

I write to you with both a heavy and joyful heart.  Heavy because there is so much frustration and sadness in our district this early in the school year.  Not because of the teachers strike but because of the staff cuts at a large number of schools. 

I am joyful because enough parents are now ready and willing.  I am joyful because, unbidden by me or anyone else, they have risen up to act.  I am joyful because they have decided that being nice, playing along and raising money for this district is no longer going to be the status quo for them.