Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Power Was Out at District Headquarters

Just went to the SPS website and saw a notice "Power has been restored at the JSCEE.  Thank you for your patience."

I don't know how long it was out but if you were trying to access the building and couldn't, that's the reason why.

Tuesday Open Thread

A wealthy person trying to buy a basketball team?  Well, that would be Steve Ballmer buying the LA Clippers but according to a very well-done story from the Seattle Times, he cut his teeth doing it at Lakeside.

I note that some of the comments call out Bellevue School District for this kind of thing as well as Rainier Beach High School.  The activities at RBHS have been covered in the Times previously but I don't really know what the story is in Bellevue.

But when parents want sports to become the focus at a school (and the school allows it), it benefits no one.  There is no "you're helping low-income/minority students" when they are allowed to play as they are not passing classes.

From the John Rogers Elementary school community:
"John Rogers will have 4 kindergarten classes this year!  With that many kindergarteners (85) the school is scrambling to move classrooms, offices and closets around.  Staff have asked if anyone is available to help ..."
So this community finds itself scrambling for space and are now down to closet space.  The district says, "these kids are coming; find the room."  That seems like a very heavy lift at a very late stage.

And where will all these preschool rooms come from that the City wants?  It's a fantasy.

Please keep the students, teachers and staff of the school district in Ferguson, Missouri in your thoughts.  Three out of four schools continue to be closed today.  I'm sure it must be a confusing, difficult time for all involved and helping students make sense of what is happening is a big job.

I'm at the Charter Commission meeting this morning.

What's on your mind?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Highland Park Elementary Discussion

 Update:  there was this new comment at the West Seattle blog:

As a HP resident and a parent who sends her kids elsewhere I’d just like to point out that the creation of neighborhood schools and the lack of available busing to get away from failing schools has only further segregated poorer kids and families. Segregation by income is just as wrong as segregation by race.. The district needs to change the policies that only exasperated the income inequality issues at HPE. If not, parents with the financial means to make other choices will just continue to do so.

Actually, parents at failing schools always did have the ability (with busing) to get away.  Under NCLB, parents were supposed to be notified of this option (along with tutoring options).  I would be fairly sure the district did send those letters but many parents may not have realized what it meant.

If your child was enrolled at a "failing" school, you could request being moved to another non-failing school within your region (maybe district).  I know some kids left MLK, Jr. (in its old location) to go to McGilvra under this option.
The irony for the here and now is that with Washington State not receiving its NCLB waiver, all the districts have to send out "failing schools" letters that say nearly every single school is a "failing school."  So you could ask to transfer but now, there are virtually no schools to transfer to under this new designation.

end of update.

 A couple of West Seattle parents let me know of discussions over Highland Park Elementary and its struggle to right itself.  The school is a very low performer and has issues over discipline and bullying.  But, the good news is that the community wants to support it and help move it in a positive direction.

To that end, a member of the Highland Park PTA asked the Highland Park Action Committee, a local community group, if they could work together to raise money and awareness for their neighborhood school.  The community group agreed and the meeting was held last Tuesday.

The great West Seattle Blog covered it in depth.  That was some frank and illuminating discussion that included information about other schools I had not heard before.

Seattle Schools This Week

Tuesday, August 19th

Audit& Finance Committee meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda
Wonder if the Committee might consider where money was taken for the various staff members to go off on their preschool junket.

Update: Wonder no more, there is nothing on the agenda about the preschool junket or replacing those funds from the various sources that were used to fund it.

Lots of interesting items like:
- redirection of selected lease and rental earnings to General Fund (because, really, why do buildings need maintenance?)
- policy for unpaid holidays for reason of faith or conscience
- restrictive covenant agreement terms review
- downtown school financing options

Wednesday, August 20th
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm.
I am aware that a rally over the Garfield field trip rape is to occur outside of headquarters right before the meeting at about 4 pm.  Supporters of the student and her parents are also likely to be at the meeting.


Selected Action Items

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Local Ed News

The AP is reporting that the State Supreme Court will announced on Friday that it would consider if the charter law of Washington State violates our state's constitution.

I would say that's a rather large piece of news as I have been repeatedly told that it was "highly unlikely" this would happen.  Oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 28th.  I just might have to go and listen.

A King County judge had earlier ruled that parts of the law were unconstitutional and both sides asked to skip the appeals and go straight to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court issue centers around our Constitution's wording about "common schools" and whether charters meet that specific definition (and therefore are entitled to be funded in that manner).

NCLB letters are reaching mailboxes soon.  (SPS is holding back to see if their individual district waiver comes thru based on the district's belief that the CBA covers using test scores for teacher evaluation.)  Here's the phone message from Kent School District (good for them). 

 It's interesting to see how across-the-board dumb many people think this action is.  (And I still wonder how much it costs a district to create and send them.) 

Anyone attend Director Martin-Morris' community meeting this morning?

It appears that there is something going on at Salmon Bay.  Here's what I am hearing:

Friday, August 15, 2014

From Two Sides: Ed Reform versus the Most Famous Teacher in the U.S.

That teacher would be 5th grade teacher Rafe Esquith from Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles.  He has taught for nearly 30 years and written several books.   But I'll let Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post's Answer Sheet tell you more:

*When he goes to China he is so popular he needs security guards to protect him from the crush of the crowds.

*He is the only K-12 teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts.

*A documentary, “The Atticus Finch of Hobart Elementary,” was made about the famous Shakespeare program he has run for years at Hobart, where all of his students appear in at least one full-length production a year. The English actor Ian McKellen actually noticed some of Esquith’s young students mouthing the words to a Shakespearean play in which he was performing in Los Angeles.

*He has been given the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. He’s gotten more awards and honors, but you should have the idea by now.

So I think we can all agree; the guy knows his stuff.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates is pushing hard on Common Core.  From Diane Ravitch:

The long arm of the Gates Foundation reaches out to create a rating system for Common Core-aligned materials. Not content to have paid for the writing of the CCSS. the evaluation of the CCSS, the implementation of the CCSS, and the promotion of and advocacy for the CCSS, the foundation wants to take the next step to make sure no one uses anything less than stellar CCSS.

The story from Politico:

Friday/Saturday Open Thread

I've been out of town so a bit behind on this.

I see that teacher John Greenberg has been reinstated at The Center School (this from a story in the PI).  The story does NOT say what if he will be teaching his Citizenship and Social Justice class. 

The petition for a new principal at Garfield (on the heels of the outrage over the investigation of a rape on a Garfield overnight field trip) has over 2,000 signatures.  I hope to talk to some alum next week about this move.

Is ballet a sport? Under Armour thinks so with this great video of ABT's Misty Copeland and an apparent letter she received about becoming a ballet dancer.  It's good to defy the odds.

What's on your mind?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Advanced Learning Task Forces' Recommendations

Advanced Learning Task Forces
Report & Recommendations                  
August 2014

The Advanced Learning Task Forces met for more than 50 hours during the 2013-2014 school year to studyidentification and service delivery models for Highly Capable students. They found that many aspects of our Highly Capable/Accelerated Progress Program work well and do not require changes. The task forces believe the current delivery model should remain in place with the recommendations below providing additional opportunities and direction to enhance equity of access to Highly Capable services.

This task force was not asked to address Advanced Learning programs beyond those for Highly Capable students. The task force recognizes, however, that Spectrum and ALOs are a valued aspect of Advanced Learning, and the District should continue to address the opportunities for advanced learners beyond students identified as Highly Capable. Enhancing those opportunities will ultimately benefit all students.

Seattle Landmarks Board Votes to Hit Pause on Wilson-Pacific

From Indian Country Today media network:

Plans to demolish a public school with strong ties to Seattle’s Native community have been sent back to the drawing board.

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted 7-1 on July 16 to designate Wilson-Pacific School a city landmark. That prevents Seattle Public Schools officials from proceeding with plans to demolish the school so a new school can be built in its place.

Ironically, the school was nominated for landmark status by the very agency that wanted to demolish it. Under the state Environmental Policy Act, the school district was required to make an assessment of the school’s cultural and historical importance and present it to the landmarks board.

Erin Doherty, Landmarks Preservation Board coordinator, said the school met three of six criteria for landmark designation: it is “associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City” (Eaglestaff); it is “associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community;” and it embodies “the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period.”
What comes next?
Next, landmarks board staff and the school district will negotiate a controls and incentives agreement for landmarks board consideration. “Controls define those features of the landmark to be preserved and outline the Certificate of Approval process for changes to those features,” the board website states. “Incentives may include, but are not limited to, zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives.”

UNEA members, its youth council members, and possibly some landmarks board members will attend Indigenous Cultures Day on August 16 at Seattle Center—within view of a memorial pole raised in honor of Nitinaht First Nations carver John T. Williams, who was killed by a Seattle police officer in 2010. The day’s events will include a viewing of the Robert Eaglestaff documentary.
Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/08/11/seattle-landmarks-board-votes-save-indian-heritage-school-156324

Tuesday Open Thread

 A bit of dark place I find myself in. 

Robin Williams, a giant talent who I saw twice live in San Francisco (and once in a little bookstore), killed himself.  Very sad.

Then there's the essay by Joe Williams of DFER who says that "Suburbs Hold Key to Resolving Democratic Party's Tensions over School Choice."

It's hard to know which is worse - the idea that the "school choice" is the REAL issue among Dems (hint: it's not).  Cue violins and wringing of hands - if only we could get the "huge swaths of black and Hispanic families" on the same page as "as the nation's soccer moms" where"no cul-de-sac left behind," why we'd all be singing Kumbaya, no?

(Note to Mr. Williams, you may have missed the World Cup but those of us who watched and who know soccer as the world sport, know there are MILLIONS of black and Hispanic soccer moms.)

  According to Bazaar magazine, we have "the Savior in Seattle." Not "a savior" but "the savior."  That would be one Mrs. Bill Gates, Jr. 

Now an odd thing I find about nearly every article on the Gates Foundation - it seems when they want to look good (and/or not be challenged), their Foundation is all about world health.  But public education in the U.S. and their efforts to mold it just never seems to come up.  And so it is with this article.

She takes a seat in a conference room, wearing black trousers, a tan silk blouse, and a subtle Van Cleef & Arpels flower necklace.

(But she must have changed clothes for the photo.  I was going to put the photo up but the only place you can do that is ...Pinterest. You can't make this stuff up.)

Gates's worst trait, she says, "is being too hard on myself. Bill reminds me often, 'You know way more than you think you know, Melinda. Just be nicer to yourself.' "

That's what big money (and Big Data) will do for you, I guess.  It buys you the power to believe in yourself.

And then there was the C&I meeting.  I'll let others report out but honestly, Director McLaren telling staff to enjoy "this sweet moment" while speaking of getting the Highly Capable report "done" was a little more than I could take.   They really should go back to calling it Highly Capable because pretty soon, that's all that will be left.

What's on your mind?