Excerpt From an Open Letter to Arne Duncan from Herb Kohl

"...I discovered then, in my early teaching career, that learning is best driven by ideas, challenges, experiences, and activities that engage students. My experience over the past 45 years has confirmed this.

We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, "We are learning how to do good on the tests." They did not say they were learning to read.

It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test." (Summer 2009)

Nova High School Relocated

Nova High School Relocated

Merit Pay

"I would like to know who in our country would like their pay to be based on the actions of a group of children."

Laurie, in response to R. Weingartner, On Point, 1/26/10

Merit pay is an issue that is closely associated with charter schools and is a reiteration of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Basically, it requires that teachers pay be based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. For our students, it could be the new MAP test. With the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers and staff were pressured to teach much of the class work to the standardized tests. With so much focus on the test, many other parts of knowledge building, creativity and understanding of subjects and their synthesis with other knowledge had to take a back seat. For many students, teaching to a test meant that they were not able to reach their full potential which would have been far beyond the level of the tests.

No one wins in this situation.

Part of the fallout also is that if a teacher's pay is based on how well their students test, many teachers will want to teach in a school where they know that the students will perform well. Those schools are, for the most part, not the schools that are predominately minority in population.

Some students do not perform well on standardized tests for many different reasons and yet a teacher's pay can be tied to that student's performance. High stakes testing also puts pressure and stress on the students who become burdened with the thought that they need to perform well on one test. The test becomes a focus with little opportunity to explore and have fun learning, creating and synthesizing new thoughts and ideas.

Update: The Governor of Texas has decided to opt out of the Race to the Top funding because of the ineffectiveness of the merit pay program that was in effect for three years inthe state.

Update: March 8, 2010 Principal to be removed from school in Wasington State due to low WASL scores.

What Is a Charter School?

The basic difference between a traditional public school and a privately run charter school is that with a charter school there is complete control of the school by a private enterprise within a public school district. Although taxpayer-funded, charters operate without the same degree of public and district oversight of a standard public school. Most charter schools do not hire union teachers which means that they can demand the teacher work longer hours including weekends at the school site and pay less than union wages. Charter schools take the school district's allotment of money provided for each student within the public schools system and use it to develop their programs. In many systems, they receive that allotment without having to pay for other costs such as transportation for students to and from the school. Some states, such as Minnesota, actually allocate more than what is granted to public school students.

A charter school can expel any student that it doesn't believe fits within its standards or meets its level of expectation in terms of test scores. If the student is dropped off the rolls of the charter school, the money that was allotted for that student may or may not be returned to the district at the beginning of the next year. That is dependent upon the contract that is established by each district.

Also, according to a recent (June 15, 2009) study by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)
, charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent performed worse. Forty-six percent demonstrated "no significant difference" from public schools. Only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than public schools.

"In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Thomas Jefferson

The Broad Foundation

The Broad Foundation claims to be a philanthropic organization, created by billionaire Eli Broad.

The Broad Foundation supports privately run charter schools and actively develops a system of charter schools in urban areas.

Broad claims it engages in "venture philanthropy":
"Our Approach to Investing: Venture Philanthropy. We take an untraditional approach to giving. We don't simply write checks to charities. Instead we practice 'venture philanthropy.' And we expect a return on our investment."

Many of us have discovered the Broad Foundation's presence within SPS and are requesting an explanation for why it is here and what its' objectives are.

Seattle has three "Broad Residents", and two Broad graduates now working within SPS. One of them is our superintendent who is a graduate of the Broad Academy which trains superintendents, and is also on the Broad's Board of Directors.

Another Broad graduate and a onetime Broad resident in SPS, Brad Bernatek, is now Director of REA, Research, Evaluation and Assessment within SPS. That department is responsible for student statistics including enrollment, demographics, evaluation and standardized testing.

The Broad Foundation provided Dr. Payzant, also a Broad graduate, to be a part of our superintendent’s yearly review in 2009.

Broad recently gave SPS a $1M "gift." That money is now in the hands of the Alliance for Education and no one knows how the money is being spent.

All in all the Broad Foundation has been quite generous to the Seattle Public School system and as Eli Broad states himself, he expects a return on his investment.

Broad also supports and actively promotes mayoral control of school districts. Eli Broad's preferred model of mayoral control means that the mayor selects the school board members and superintendent who are therefore unelected and are beholden only to the mayor, not the people of the city. It then becomes a school district that is run by one person, the mayor, with heavy influence by the Broad Foundation through developed relationships with that individual.

Update: A Detroit School District employee found accepting money from the Broad Foundation.
"Let the games begin: Detroit Teachers vote to unanimously join the current Detroit Public School District in their suit against Robert Bobb".

Update: The Broad - Rhode Island connection.
Rhode Island has had the dubious distinction of making national news recently for the draconian firing/scapegoating of an entire school of teachers. Is it a coincidence that the new education commissioner for R.I., who is pushing the state to do whatever it takes to qualify for federal "Race to the Top" dollars, is a "Broad Superintendents Academy" graduate, Deborah Gist?
"This is the point, and why mayoral control and Eli Broad, Gates, The Fisher family and the Walton family (and a host of other such charitable capitalists) along with Green Dot schools and other EMO's who seek to privatize all of education are so giddy. Creating a sub-prime school system that breaks the backs of the teacher's union is the goal of the new managerial elite who seek only to turn over public schools to private operators and entrepreneurs. This way they can reduce teachers to at-will employees, de-skill them with the "best practices," force them to work longer hours for less pay and less benefits and of course eliminate collective bargaining; that will then give the new managerial elite and their corporate masters, control over the entire educational enterprise - from curriculum development to the hiring and firing of teachers."

Dan Weil

Dollars and Sense

December, 2009

What the Gates Foundation Is Doing: The MAP Test

The Gates Foundation supports, and pays for, high stakes testing which is tied to merit pay.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given Seattle Public Schools a total of $9M this year for additional testing. We have not been able to find out the details of this testing yet. We don't know what the test is, what the test is to determine, who is administering the test and how the results of the tests are to be used.

UPDATE: We have heard that the Gates "gift" is funding the new computerized, standardized "MAP" tests the district is administering this year to all students, from as young as kindergarten to grade 9. MAP stands for "Measures of Academic Progress™" (yes, it is a trademarked product) and will be administered to the kids three times during the school year. The test can take as much as two hours each session, according to the district's official announcement letter.

A number of questions come to mind: Is this the best use of the students' school time? Is it appropriate to make children as young as five who can't read take a standardized test on a computer? Is this the best use of such funds? Or would parents, students and teachers prefer to see money channeled more directly to the classroom, to create smaller class sizes, more enrichment opportunities, or to purchase new textbooks?

A SIDE NOTE: Another interesting connection is that our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, is on the Board of Directors for the company that has created and distributes the MAP test. There is $4.3M in the levy to pay for additional use of this MAP test in Seattle.

The Cooper Building: Program DIscontinued, 2009

The Cooper Building: Program DIscontinued, 2009

Regarding Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010

" The purpose of Renaissance 2010 [in Chicago] was to increase the number of high quality schools that would be subject to new standards of accountability - a code word for legitimating more charter schools and high stakes testing in the guise of hard-nosed empiricism. Chicago's 2010 plan targets 15 percent of the city district's alleged underachieving schools in order to dismantle them and open 100 new experimental schools in areas slated for gentrification.

Most of the new experimental schools have eliminated the teacher union. The Commercial Club hired corporate consulting firm A.T. Kearney to write Ren2010, which called for the closing of 100 public schools and the reopening of privatized charter schools, contract schools (more charters to circumvent state limits) and "performance" schools.

Kearney's web site is unapologetic about its business-oriented notion of leadership, one that John Dewey thought should be avoided at all costs. It states, 'Drawing on our program-management skills and our knowledge of best practices used across industries, we provided a private-sector perspective on how to address many of the complex issues that challenge other large urban education transformations.'

Duncan's advocacy of the Renaissance 2010 plan alone should have immediately disqualified him for the Obama appointment."

Henry Giroux & Kenneth Saltman,

Obama's Betrayal of Public Education?


The African American Academy: Closed 2009

The African American Academy: Closed 2009

Alternative Schools in Seattle

Alternative schools in Seattle have a rich and varied history. Established in the 1960's by parents and educators and based on the principles of Summerhill, the programs that have developed over the last four decades in Seattle offer an opportunity for all students to succeed within the Seattle public school system.

At this time, the alternative and nontraditional schools in Seattle are basically under siege. Many schools have been closed, marginalized or split apart, including the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) for highly gifted kids, the Center School, Nova, Summit, the African American Academy, SBOC and AS-1. There is also a plan for an Alternative School Audit by SPS in October, 2009.

We see these alternative programs as viable options to the traditional school approach to education. For this reason many of us believe that with the support of these programs, there is no need for privatized charter schools.

Governor Gregoire and our state representatives are speaking to Arne Duncan about our alternative schools and that they meet the requirement of charter schools and should be considered in providing Race to the Top funds to our state.

Summit K-12: Closed 2009

Summit K-12: Closed 2009
An alternative school

Please Note

All of the schools and programs that will be shown on this page were closed or split in 2009 for an alleged total savings of $3M for the year. A drop in the bucket considering the $34M budget shortfall claimed by School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson. Was it worth it? Let us know what you think. Enrollment for the fall of 2009 is 1,200 students more than the district anticipated. With schools closed based on capacity and financial management issues per our superintendent's statements, where will these students be seated?

Meg Diaz, a parent, did a brilliant presentation to the school board in January regarding the school closures, the demographics of Seattle and why it didn't make sense to close the schools.
See: http://sites.google.com/site/seattleschoolsgroup/meg-diaz-analysis

Unfortunately, the school board paid no attention to Ms. Diaz or their own reports and instead chose to believe the numbers presented by the superintendent's CFO, Don Kennedy who previously worked with our superintendent in Charleston, and Brad Bernatek our Broad graduate and Director of REA, Research, Evaluation and Assessment who also handles the demographic data for SPS.

Two schools were closed that, per their own report, would see an increase in school aged children of anywhere between 31%-100% between 2008 and 2012. See page 11 of the DeJong report titled "Seattle Public Schools: Enrollment Projections Report". Those two schools were TT Minor Elementary School and Meany Middle School.

After the closures, Ms. Diaz decided to investigate the administrative cost within the Stanford Center and came up with surprising results. While the superintendet was rifing teaches and staff and closing schools, staff was growing within the Stanford Center and particularly in our superintendent's office where yet another Broad graduate was hired as one of the superintendent's administrative assistants.

Posted on October 6, 2009: The new assignment plan just came out and the proposal is to re-open five school buildings. Between closing five school buildings, shuffling students to different schools and now proposing the re-opening of five buildings within a year's time speaks volumns about the lack of competency of our superintendent and her chosen staff.

We have now wasted money closing five schools, moving students, equipment and materials around just to re-open five school buildings.

The cost of re-opening five of these buildings is as follows:

Sand Point: $7M
Viewlands: $11M
Old Hay: $7.5M
Mc Donald$: $14.9M
Rainier View: $7.4M
Total so far: $47.8

The superintendent, along with the school board, plan to take the next capitol levy money, BEX III, to be voted on in 2010 that was to go to the maintenance and seismic upgrades of our school buildings, which would make them safer, and instead use the money to re-open these previously closed buildings.

The decision to close schools last year and close or relocate programs came down from our superintendent's office quickly and there was little time for debate or understanding of what the ramifications would be. It is my opinion that again, we need to have time to evaluate what cost can wait and how these cost can be phased so that we can not only make our existing buildings safer but also provide adequate space for all of our students.

There is also stimulus money that other school dristricts have been able to acquire to upgrade their school buildings through FEMA grants. These grants, part of a Disaster Mitigation Fund, are being used to make school buildings safer. I had presented this information to the school board and superintendent but no action was taken at the time.

I will provide updates on the effort to once again get SPS to pay attention to this opportunity.

Please send comments or ideas to us or share your opinions below. We want to hear from you. All positive and constructive input is of value.


"I think it high time Congress enact similar mandates for other professions that utilize a single measure to determine success. Dentists should be evaluated on how many teeth they save, doctors should be evaluated on how many patients they save, lawyers should be evaluated on how many cases they win, accountants should be evaluated on much money they save clients, and engineers on how many buildings they've designed get built. Congress should also enact national, comprehensive standards for each profession without any input from members of said professions since we know they can't be trusted to make informed decisions or contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way. Anyone who won't come on board should be fired and labeled a dissident. Conformity and control are a must, so teachers should be thankful they are first in the firing line."

Priscilla Gutierrez, Huffington Post comment

Lowell Elementary

Lowell Elementary
The Lowell APP program was split with half of the students sent to Thurgood Marshall.

Our Declaration

In the current national discussion about education reform, the loudest voices are not necessarily those of the people who are directly affected by what happens in our schools – the students, parents, teachers and school communities themselves.

We are parents with children in public schools. These are our kids, their teachers, our schools. And we would like to be heard.

What’s more, the message coming from the current league of reformers is largely negative, much talk about what’s wrong with our schools, but little discussion of what public schools and teachers are doing right, and what they could do even better if given full support.

Can our public schools be improved? Absolutely. But that begins with fully funding our schools and believing they can work.

We believe they can, when given the chance.

We also believe that too many of the latest proposed education reforms are too punitive and are not changes for the better.

We believe there are valuable aspects of public education worth preserving and supporting, beginning with the very principle itself – free public education for every child in the country. We believe this has always been a noble goal and one that we’re not willing to give up on.

So we have created a
Declaration of Support for Public Schools.

We invite others across the nation who share our vision for public education to sign on to our statement, to send a message to the president, education secretary and school district officials throughout the country.

The message is simple:

Let’s fix what’s broken, but don’t break what isn’t.

And do not impose detrimental changes on our schools and children in the name of “reform.”


Sue Peters, Dora Taylor

Seattle Public Schools parents
May 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

No-confidence motion: “Whereas Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, is an ineffective leader”

I am going to show this per the statement issued to SEA by the staff at Ballard High School on May 26, 2010:

No-confidence motion
Whereas Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, is an ineffective leader in the following ways:

Her conflict of interest in selling the school district an unproven standardized student assessment plan sold by a private corporation on whose board she sits, and her failure to disclose this conflict of interest to the School Board at the time of the sale.

b) Her mismanagement of human resources in last year’s RIF included unnecessary layoffs, a mock “firing” of all members of our collective bargaining unit, and a retraction by certified mail that cost the school district $18,000.

c) Her contemptuous attitude toward public and staff. For example, at the March meeting of the School Board, she entered the meeting only after public testimony was concluded. For the May meeting to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, she paraphrased a heartwarming but fictitious story about a fictitious teacher and fictitious student. Using this story was at best intellectually dishonest and suggests she knows no stories about Seattle’s teachers.

d) Sneaky accounting practices and diversion of resources to fund pet programs (Appendix 3)

e) Effective resegregation of SPS through redistricting and eliminating busing programs

f) Ineffective management of grants important for sustaining minority programs, particularly Native American programs (Appendix 1)

g) Widespread and growing public dissatisfaction with Seattle Public Schools leadership

h) Attempting to charge PTSAs for donating money (a way to divert donated money to pet projects)

i) Using outside consulting firms (at what cost?) to hire principals. By the way, this fancy firm advertises on Craigslist. http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/edu/1737149149.html

j) Non-transparent links and finances with Broad Foundation. See this link http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/search/label/Broad%20Foundation
Vis-à-vis Broad Foundation consultants working in-district.

k) Ineffective communications and an inability to develop consensus among stakeholders led to public relations debacle and messy withdrawal of the initiative to lower graduation GPA requirements

l) Failure of “Southeast Initiative” (Appendix 2)

m) Confused initiative to close schools led to extra expenses to reopen 5

n) An accounting system that can’t provide answers: “About $100,000 in equipment and electronics and as much as $500,000 worth of copper wiring and other assets are missing or were stolen from area schools, according to the State Auditor’s Office. Though district officials dispute the numbers, they’re unable to determine exactly what’s gone or put a precise value on the loss. A year after the copper wiring was stolen, the district says the cost is still “unknown.”

We, the teachers of Ballard High School, move to express our lack of confidence in her ability to move our school district, our teachers, parents, and students forward in a positive and equitable way.

Appendix 1
I attended an Audit and Finance Committee meeting where it had come out that the program manager of the Native American program had overcounted the number of students by a wide margin. (This is for a federal grant which requires a certain form be filled out by each student’s parent or guardian. The district knows – mostly – who is Native American in our district but cannot claim them on the grant without the form being filled out.) This gross error caused the district to have to go back and repay the money to the feds (although I still don’t know how much and if there was any penalty for it).

So what now comes out is that even though the original program manager who made this mistake is gone, the new program manager compounded the error by getting the grant in late. He was trying to send it to the feds….15 minutes before the due date and he had a “computer” problem. So the grant was, of course, denied.

So now the Native American program grant is in the second tier of funding which means if there is any money left over. Think that will happen? I doubt it. The district is kicking in money for the program but only a third of what was funded. So they are getting rid of the two teachers who were helping the students academically.

Now, at the time of the Committee meeting, Michael DeBell seemed very upset and he asked who was accountable. What he was told was that the program manager was gone. HOWEVER, the district didn’t mention at the meeting that there was a new person in place nor was that person in the room. Now why wouldn’t the district bring in the person who is in charge of the program? Probably because it turns out that person had committed the gross error of not getting the grant off in time and district staff KNEW it at the time of the meeting.

There have been a few meetings with parents/community and the district. Apparently at one meeting, there was some tense dialog between one parent and the head of the program, Arlie Neskahi, over whether he had responded to e-mails. The Superintendent was there and yet again, brushed it off as a personality conflict. (See the pattern? She likes to dismiss, on any grounds, parent/community input as too subjective, too personal and basically, not worthy of her time.)

So this past Board meeting, several Native American parents and students came forward to let the Board how upset and concerned that they are. Then, the Superintendent, during her updates, had Dr. Enfield and the head of the program, Arlie N. get up and explain. Did they mention the overcount? No. Did they brush over the late grant? Yup. Did the Board let them off scot-free without even so much as “this is deeply disappointing”? Sure.

Here’s what was said:
Dr. Enfield claimed that the staff shares the “urgency” that the community does. She says the program needs a more comprehensive program for both academics and support. She claims they are now in compliance with the grant requirements. (And note, the grant specifies a parent advisory committee which they hadn’t done for years.) She says they will do a better job getting Native American parents to fill out the form needed for the grant. She talked about the district “improving our internal systems and processes” and that Arlie “has taken the lead on this”. What?!? The same guy who couldn’t do the most important task at his job, namely, getting a grant off on time? This is the guy you trust?

Then Dr. Enfield said something that should give us all a good laugh. “How do we put into place opportunities for community conversations in an ongoing basis so we are engaging in collective problem solving?” That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t Dr. Enfield? Go ask your boss, I’m sure that would get filed right in the circular file next to her desk.

Then she said the most damning thing of all, “I think we want to get to a place where we are not reacting to things that crop up as perhaps a ‘pseudo-crisis’”. More on that in a minute.
Arlie gave some stats on Native American students in our district. There are 850 above the ship canal, 150 located in Central, 1,000 in the SE and 375 in the SW. They have a goal of getting 700 of the needed 506 forms.

When asked about what academic supports will be there for these students now that their teachers are gone, Arlie danced around the question with a lame mumble about tutoring after-school sometimes. Dr. Enfield said that the district has challenging budgets and limited resources. Really? And how is that a comfort to these parents?

I have been communicating with Native American parent and activist, Sarah Sense-Wilson. She and other parents are deeply dismayed with all of this. They have tried to work with the program manager(s) and have largely been held at arm’s length. For example, they tried to set up a presentation by the NW Justice Project for parents and students on their legal rights regarding expulsions and suspensions. That got blocked by the district. But then, at the Board meeting, Arlie named that very group as one to work with. According to Sarah, the district has tried to exclude or block community engagement.

Appendix 2
The results of the Southeast Initiative came up in the recent Board discussion of the Cleveland STEM proposal. Director DeBell said that the Southeast Initiative results were disappointing and reflected failure. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson responded both that the Southeast Initiative was, in fact, successful and that three years is far too short a time frame for measuring results.
Both of her statements were false.

Let’s take the second one first, the idea that three years is just too short of a period to look for improvement. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was superintendent when the Southeast Initiative was debated and adopted. She was superintendent when the three-year time frame was set. She was superintendent when the accountability benchmarks were set. In fact, she set them. She has been superintendent for the entire life of the project. Every decision about the Southeast Initiative has been made with her implicit approval if not her explicit approval. She has reported to the Board any number of times on the initiative’s progress, usually with enthusiasm and optimism. Not once in all of this time did Dr. Goodloe-Johnson ever suggested, or even intimated – let alone outright stated – that three years is too short a time period to expect positive results. Only now, as the three year period for the effort comes to a close does she give this disclaimer.
If three years is too short a time for change, then why weren’t the benchmarks simply less ambitious? If three years is too short a time for change, then why wasn’t the project made longer? If three years is too short a time for change, then why didn’t she provide that disclaimer at the beginning and all along? If three years is too short a time for change, then why did she express such optimism in her updates? This excuse simply does not stand up.

Next comes the suggestion that the Southeast Education Initiative was any kind of success.
Let’s remember the purpose of the effort. It was to make Aki Kurose, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland into “schools of choice” for families in the neighborhood. Lately, I have seen some revisionist history at work. Every so often it is suggested that the purpose of the Southeast Initiative is to raise student academic achievement through a combination of strengthened academic offerings and signature programs. That’s simply not true.

Here is the direct quote from the document that gives the Southeast Initiative its charter, the Framework for Revised Student Assignment Plan, approved by the Board on June 20, 2007:
The vision of the initiative is to:
• Ensure that local secondary schools are the “schools of choice” for residents of southeast Seattle by providing targeted and sustained resources that will enable each school to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for school transformation.
• Schools will include Aki Kurose Middle School, Cleveland High School, and Rainier Beach High School.Improving the academic outcomes for students at the schools is only part of the means to that end. The accountability measures were to be:
• Enrollment Growth• % of First Choice
• Increased Academic Achievement
• Student and Teacher Climate Survey Results
• Attendance

The Board’s Audit and Finance Committee got an update on the Southeast Education Initiative at their meeting on December 10, 2009. I don’t have the documents that were presented to them then, but I do have access to relevent data.

Enrollment (as of the October 1 count) at the three schools in the years 2007, 2008, and 2009:
Aki Kurose: 465, 434, 561This represents a significant improvement, but the school is still woefully under-enrolled. Also, further analysis (below) shows that the increased enrollment was not due to choice.

Rainier Beach: 361, 453, 500This represents a significant improvement, but the school is still woefully under-enrolled. Also, further analysis (below) shows that the increased enrollment was not due to choice.

Cleveland: 676, 706, 695This does not represent any improvement at all.
% of First Choice:

Aki Kurose: 33.3%, 26.1%, 19.4%This represents significant decline. We now see that the source of the improved enrollment increase was not at all attributable to first choice assignments. Only 39 students selected Aki Kurose as their school of first choice in 2009.

Rainier Beach: 17.3%, 13.3%, 12.8%This represents significant decline. We now see that the source of the improved enrollment increase was not at all attributable to first choice assignments. Only 15 students selected Rainier Beach as their school of first choice in 2009.

Cleveland: 28.6%, 25.8%, 18.0%This represents significant decline. Only 44 students selected Cleveland as their school of first choice in 2009.

Aki Kurose: 86.3%, 87.1%, 86.8% No improvement.Rainier Beach: 78.1%, 76.4%, 77.5% No improvement.
Cleveland: 75.3%, 74.0%, 75.5% No improvement.

Academic Achievement (as measured by 7th and 10th grade WASL pass rates):
Aki Kurose math: 21.8%, 21.9%, 22.5% No improvement.
Aki Kurose reading: 54.9%, 44.7%, 45.8% Decline.Rainier Beach math: 37.4%, 28.6%, 17.6% Decline.
Rainier Beach reading: 70.0%, 67.9%, 61.5% Decline.
Cleveland math: 17.9%, 12.0%, 21.2% No improvement.Cleveland reading 62.7%, 61.4%, 64.4% No improvement.
There is simply no objective measure by which the Southeast Initiative can be said to be a success. Any claims of success are patently false.

Appendix 3
The Washington State Auditor’s office released a report yesterday on the district’s compliance with federal grant funding. What pops into my head constantly when this kind of thing appears is “We’re in 2010 and we still have these issues.” We have Moss-Adams report, the CAICEE report and now the State Auditor’s report (again) and yet, it still happens. That it happens this regularly makes you wonder.

From the audit:
In our 2004 and 2007 audits, we notified District management of these requirements, and in our audit of fiscal year 2008 we reported noncompliance with federal procurement requirements. These conditions have not been resolved.

These are grants for Special Education, Native American programs, and others. Some of the issue is that the district is not going out and getting bids or proposals from multiple vendors as is required and don’t have records to support claims of doing so.

From the audit:
Special Education: We examined eight personal service contracts totaling $1,172,328 charged to Special Education grants. The District could not provide documentation to show these contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.
Indian Education: We examined two personal service contracts totaling $14,603 charged to the Indian Education grant. The District could not provide documentation to show the contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.
Head Start: We examined four personal service contracts totaling $217,982 charged to the Head Start grant. The District could not provide documentation to show these contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.

Title I: We examined six personal service contracts totaling $175,998 charged to the Title I grant for private tutoring services. The District could not provide documentation showing these contracts were competitively procured. District staff stated they considered the contracts sole source, but did not have documentation to show how the District reached that conclusion.

Cause of Condition
District staff was unaware of federal requirements related to procurement. The District also did not follow previous audit recommendations.

Effect of Condition
By not complying with federal procurement requirements, the District cannot ensure contracts paid with federal funds are awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. By not retaining appropriate supporting documentation, the District cannot demonstrate other providers were unable to supply the necessary personal services before it selected vendors. Therefore, it is possible other providers were not provided an opportunity to compete for these contracts, which can affect contract price and quality of service.

But again, how many years before the district has a streamlined and efficient method of operating? It almost seems like they got frozen in time at some point and are continually struggling to keep up.

Brief Overview of each Finding

Indian Education Grant – The District claimed 1,123 in its 2008-2009 grant application and received $233,792. In 2007, the U.S. Department of ed found that the district’s number of eligibility forms on file did not match the number of students counted. The district provided 927 eligibility forms but only 377 were valid. There was also a finding that they did not create the parent committee required by the grant, a finding initially discovered in 2007.

Special Education (IDEA)
This is for a Safety Net award. The district received about $460K in 2008-2009 but there were two students who left the district but the district kept the money. The district claimed it thought that OSPI automatically changed the grant amount if a student withdrew from the district.

Title 1
The district had one paraprofessional who did not meet the highly qualified requirement. The district did report this to OSPI. (The employee had earned $31,455 during 2008-2009.) The district said it wasn’t aware of the requirement and thought this employee was providing services not related to Title 1. An additional finding was that the district had 73 teachers who did not meeting the highly qualified teacher requirements (but none of them taught Title 1 classes). This one seems like a genuine human error on the district’s part and not a big deal. The odd thing is that the reason it occurred is that a teacher resigned and they put in an IA instead of a teacher.

Education State Grants
These are grants to boost funding from K- college. The district had received a one-time sum of $19.8M in 2009. Of that, $12.5M was spent on salaries and $4.1M on benefits. The district had put in a new payroll system in 2008. Apparently this new system can’t detect overpayments to employees funded by these grants. Because of this, the Auditor was unable to determine how many employees were overpaid so how much was lost here is unknown. They were only able to identify one employee who was overpaid by $40K (and the charge to the grant was $8k). A Special Report will be issued later this year on district’s salary overpayments. (The cause here of the overpayments?

When it switched to the new system, District staff members manually entered employee pay codes into the new system. No one did a review to ensure they were correct. Therefore, the District’s controls were insufficient to detect and correct errors in a timely manner.

Internal Controls in Accounting
This one is pretty troubling.
District staff members did not have adequate knowledge of and experience with prescribed financial reporting requirements. Staff did not use the Accounting Manual for Public School Districts in the State of Washington for guidance and information related to capital asset transactions, and recorded them incorrectly.

In fiscal year 2009, the District processed more than $330 million in payroll. We noted that when District changed its payroll system in 2008, it did not update its internal controls to address the increased risks of error or inappropriate entries related to manual data entry. Therefore, the District’s controls over this payroll

Financial statement preparation
District management is responsible for ensuring annual financial reports are accurate, complete, and comply with reporting requirements. However, the District relies on our audit to identify errors in the financial statements and notes, rather than dedicating the necessary staff time, training and other resources to ensure annual financial reports are accurate and complete.

Payroll Processing
During the payroll system conversion, District staff members manually entered employee pay codes into the new system. No one reviewed these to ensure individual pay rates were the rates shown in the signed employee contracts.

The effects of this lack of oversight are that buildings were reported as “equipment”. Salaries and benefits for General Fund were reported int he Capital Projects Funds. Capital accounts payable of $1.6M were in the General Fund. The district also overstated its total unreserved,undesignated fund balance.

For Payroll,
At least 150 employees were paid at a higher placement on the pay scale than their contracts supported. Thus far, a total of $335,000 has been identified as overpaid. This is the result of a systemic issue.

The district admits fault in every case but this isn’t the first time for many of these issues that they have been told that they are not in compliance. That the Auditor’s office thinks the district is relying on the state audits to find their mistakes rather than doing it themselves is troubling.
So I had followed up on Dr. Enfield’s e-mail to Charlie and me about the NTN contract. She did answer several questions (but ignored some others). Hence, the follow-up. Now here was my most burning question:
“So there is a signed “agreement” between SPS and NTN but not a contract. This seems quite odd. The Board voted on NTN two Board meetings ago; was that to agree to NTN being the provider of these services but not what specific services? So then the big question: When will there be a signed contract?”

And here is her answer given today:
“Thank you for your comments/questions related to Seattle Public Schools’ contract with NTN. A lawsuit has been filed related to this contract. Given that litigation is pending, we are not able to answer specific questions.Dr. Susan Enfield”

I doubt that she will be able to stave off anyone seeing the final contract when it is signed. So I’ll let the Board know that. You can’t hide behind a lawsuit in order to not answer questions especially the most basic one: when can we see the signed contract?

See, it goes both ways. If I can’t see the signed contract because of the lawsuit, they don’t get to open the STEM program because their contract is in dispute because of the lawsuit. Posted by Melissa Westbrook at 7:41 PM 13 comments
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
NTN Contract Update
So, just to be clear, we have an answer from the District staff about the differences between the requirements of the NTN Contract and the story that the staff has been telling the Board and the public about STEM.

The differences are real.

The contract requires the District to create two completely separate schools each with their own individual identity, identification code with the state, facility, staff, principal, and IT administrator. We have been told that the two STEM academies will share an identity, identification code with the state, facility, staff, principal and IT administrator.

The contract strictly limits enrollment of each school to 450 for a total maximum of 900. We have been told that the capacity of STEM is 1,000 students.

The contract requires that all core classes be taught on campus. We have been told that the students can leave the campus for Running Start classes.

When asked about these discrepancies, it took the staff several days to respond. The eventual explanation was that these differences were discussed with NTN, and NTN agreed, in those discussions, to accept the District’s intended performance in deviation from the contract language. This explanation fails to satisfy. It fails for three reasons. First, if there were negotiations and agreements that differ from the language of the contract, then those terms should have been the ones codified in the contract rather than the ones that were codified. That is, after all, the purpose of a written contract – to codify the results of a negotiation and agreement – not to codify anything else. Second, any such oral agreements outside of the contract would not be enforceable if they contradicted the written agreement. Third, the contract has a clause which specifically says that any discussions or agreements outside of the written language of the contract are void.

Just to be clear and fair. The contract does not require perfect performance from the District. The District is required to make their “best effort”, but Exhibit C provides a better measure of what is acceptable and what is not. Exhibit C provides descriptions of three levels of District achievement: At Risk, Emerging, and Advanced. The District is required – by the contract – to reach at least the Emerging status on all measures. NTN could find the District in breach of contract if it fails. District commits to use its best efforts to attain in all categories at least the status of “emerging” (and with the goal of attaining in all categories the status of “advanced”) in accordance with the School Success Rubric standards attached hereto as Exhibit C.For one of the measures of school culture and autonomy, the Emerging level is “School has a unique identity.” The At Risk version of that effort is “School has failed to develop an identity separate from other institutions.” If STEM continues to be one school, then the District will have failed to achieve Emerging status on this measure. That failure will put the District in breach of contract and would make the contract voidable by NTN. The contract could be terminated: At the non-breaching party’s option, effective immediately, if a party materially breaches, violates or otherwise fails to comply with any of the terms contained in this Agreement and fails to cure such breach within sixty (60) days of receiving written notice of such breach from the non-breaching party:Would a family with a student at STEM have standing in a Court to appeal the Board’s decision to violate the terms of the contract? The law on the appeals is that anyone who is aggrieved by a decision (or non-decision) of the Board can appeal. Is having only a 1/1000 share of the principal’s attention instead of a 1/450 share sufficient cause? Is putting the NTN contract at risk sufficient grounds for an appeal?

Should it even come down to a legal appeal in Superior Court? Shouldn’t it be enough that we, as citizens, expect our government bodies to fulfill the letter and spirit of the contracts they sign? Isn’t it enough that we demand they have the legal acumen not to enter into contracts that they – erroneously – believe are modified by ancillary oral agreements? More than anything, isn’t it enough that not a single member of the Board ever asked a single question about any of these differences between the contract language and the public information about STEM?

In the end, this isn’t about whether or not the District will fulfill the terms of the contract or if NTN will terminate the agreement due to the District failure to fulfill those terms. The critical issue here isn’t the contract at all – it is the obvious failure of the Board to conduct the minimal due diligence of reading the contract they were approving.

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