Monday, March 31, 2008

A summary for the first three hundred entries.

1. The Edmonds School District teaches history but is compelled to repeat it. Despite having all the evidence for a budget shortfall and decreasing enrollment, they still get caught with their proverbial toga down.

2. The Edmonds School District violates their own playbook by A) no longer bothering to post a position, B) sneaking in their favored application in after the deadline, C) directing members of the screening committee to change their scores for the pre-ordained candidate and D) disregarding the unanimous decision of the interviewing committee. Who needs a qualified candidate when we have so many friends facing a budget crunch.

3. The Edmonds School District no longer draws upon internal talent to develop, design, and build reconfigurations. Who needs qualified staff when you have so much money? A window seat will keep the Director of Facilities Operations happy. It's just $11,000.00.

4. The Edmonds School District follows the direction of the Snohomish Health District and doesn't notify parents that a child in school has MRSA. Perhaps the Health District should conduct state audits because they apparently carry a bit of clout. Odd that a private school in Edmonds cared enough to contain a medical condition and error on the side of caution.

5. The Edmonds School District develops automated systems to notify parents when their children do not appear in school. Unfortunately, the automated system has no idea it just dialed the wrong number. Worse still, no one answers when you try to call back. It might be a good idea to increase your family's insurance coverage.

6. The Edmonds School District doesn't advertise success - as rare as it may be - for fear of attracting better students from districts nearby. That is certainly the last thing we would ever want sitting next to our students - another student that actually wants to be there.

7. The Edmonds School District does appear to be a little heavy on the top. Years of enriching friends has to come to an end eventually when the students don't exist - or does it? They can move the furniture around the living room until the fire department shows up.

8. The Edmonds School District claims the new administration site is worth a lot more than actual value - until they seek to purchase the adjacent vacated street, in which case it becomes worth much, much less.

9. The Edmonds School District rents tables every year, instead of buying them. Why? They must be certain this silly WASL thing is about to be cancelled forever. Reports to the blog place the actual expense for renting tables at between $18,000.00 and $20,000.00 a year. For that price, you could almost justify making the WASL a take-home test.

10. The Edmonds School District is not accountable to the Snohomish County Prosecutor, the State Attorney General or the Superintendent of Public Instruction. We have already established they are not accountable to their own board policies. Who has the only leverage with district management? The State Auditor. But we shall soon see how much oversight they really possess. Place your bets.

11. The Edmonds School District appears to be losing a lot of staff these days. The Director of Transportation is retiring. The Network Administrator is resigning. The Business Manager has been down graded to Prof Tech. What will the District do in the midst of this massive "brain drain"? (Real. Real. Sarcasm.)

12. The Edmonds School District allows documents to be destroyed before the State Auditors can evaluate them. The District needs pianos. What does it matter how much was paid or from whom they were purchased. Details. Details.

13. The Edmonds School District seems incapable of preparing students for college math. Fortunately, I have numbered these issues so no one will fall behind. Of course, if we have constituents that can't add, subtract or bisect a chord, chances are they won't understand the overpayment of $2,300,000.00 for contaminated property. Bravo.

14. The Edmonds School District recommends that everyone watch "Finding Nemo" and "West Side Story". A child's cartoon and actors prancing around with knives greatly outweighs any meaningful work of literature. Let's build a legacy of mediocrity with everyone else's child. Shoreline is starting to look much better about now.

15. The Edmonds School District violates every shred of due diligence and buys property that King 5 easily proves should not have been purchased. The greatest experts in the state chimed in and guess what? Marla was wrong. The price of Nick's Legacy just went up by $2,300,000.00. Stay tuned for the cost to remediate contamination. That figure will only get larger. Much larger.

16. The Edmonds School District fails to adequately provide on-the-job training for their own Assistant Superintendents. What chance do our children have? While Granite Falls chucks all of the fingerlings back in the pond to cast another line in the stream, our district gets to keep their collection of highly paid administrators. Happy, happy. Joy, joy.

17. The Edmonds School District finally admits that enrollment is decreasing. What tipped them off? Was it the sound of crickets in the classroom? Oh, that's right. The decrease happened to coincide with an increase in classroom size. Sure does look crowded around here.

18. The Edmonds School District plays with numbers in claiming that we should pass the Tech Levy because it will decrease our property taxes. Call me unenlightened and mathematically-impaired but what would happen if we voted it down all together?

19. The Edmonds School District has so few vocal supporters in Snohomish County that they ask college kids in Illinois to write in their supportive comments. Unfortunately, these kids don't know what an IP address is or how it identifies them as being the son of the problem.

20. The Edmonds School District uses public funds to actively and aggressively seek out the least qualified people they can find. Intelligent people with experience in their profession ask hard questions and nobody wants that. Especially if they are trying to buy pianos and contaminated property.

21. The Edmonds School District cannot even locate their own property on a map. Every other country on the planet pokes fun at Americans because we apparently cannot locate Mexico on a world map. I would think if we just bought a contaminated piece of property the size and location of Texas, we might just have a clue. I bet Connelly Skis was unpleasantly surprised to be included in the District's grand plan to bamboozle the taxpayers.

22. The Edmonds School District swept $150,000.00 of Capital Partnership money right into Capital Projects with no plan to build anymore playgrounds. These were matching funds, which means a loss of $300,000.00 in real improvements that our children would feel, enjoy and appreciate. Way to go.

23. The Edmonds School District tolerates the interruption of everyone's workday to count keys and write down numbers. They allow fire alarm tests to be conducted during business hours. This would be called "bad planning". You need to hire someone that can plan and that has a detectable regard for the modern work environment.

24. The Edmonds School District tries to manufacture a case of inappropriate use of the Internet against a former employee to create a reason to terminate him. Meanwhile, they have a proven case of inappropriate use of the Internet and the culprit is still on staff. Busy maintaining a hostile work environment for everyone else. That is a legal case waiting to be filed.

25. The Edmonds School District goes out of their way to bend the rules for friends of management. While verbally assaulting staff, destroying public property and resisting arrest, this pillar of the community was given a "Get out of harm's way" card by management. No Trespass Order? We didn't mean it.

26. The Edmonds School District claims they wanted to more effectively evaluate each and every new development in the District but then quickly realized they didn't hire anyone that could actually do that sort of work. Maybe when she figures out what email is.

27. The Edmonds School District actively destroyed documents rather than take the time to understand them. You can't be held to a higher standard if you shred any evidence of any earlier standards. I hope they at least recycled.

28. The Edmonds School District chooses to spend hundreds of dollars in the hope of collecting a $15 check for the use of a parking lot. Why route every simple request through a law firm? Perhaps the District is hoping that incurring such an extreme cost will motivate certain people to stop looking for places to park. I wonder what that legal tab is so far? I would ask but the cost of doing so may have me losing sleep.

29. The Edmonds School District claims to have an Attendance Incentive Program and then burns all of your vacation days over 30. Or do they? They cannot cite any relevant RCW and are now relying solely on "Past Practice" as their governing authority. They are also hatching deals behind closed doors to appease staff that are poised to file legal action for a hostile work environment.

30. The Edmonds School District fosters an atmosphere of bullying by staff and students. If anyone has the sense to focus on creating a brighter future for themselves and others, watch them duck and dive out in the hall. Teachers have to not only intervene when one student bullies another but then tolerate such unprofessional conduct in the Teacher's Lounge.

A few more - click here. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

Suburban schools feel budget pinch

In addition to statewide threats to education funding spurred by a $1.6 billion state budget deficit, some suburban school districts are bracing for budget shortfalls of their own in the fall — as high as $4 million in one case.

District officials blame declining student enrollments, higher utility costs and voter-approved cost-of-living increases for educators.

Any cuts at the state level will further hurt suburban schools, they warn, some of which have been struggling with enrollment drops — and as a result, fewer dollars — in recent years.

Lake Washington, Mercer Island, Renton and Edmonds are among districts devising ways to cut costs next school year. While nothing is certain until the end of the legislative session, districts are bracing for more cuts.

"The governor's proposed budget is supposed to be more optimistic than those coming out of the Legislature, so it could get even worse," said Bob Collard, Lake Washington assistant superintendent.

The result could be larger classes, fewer teachers, the loss of several state grants for safety and struggling students, and outdated textbooks and other materials. Administrators said they are working to keep cuts away from classrooms, but that will be more difficult if the state slashes additional dollars.

School officials at other districts, such as Bellevue, Issaquah and Northshore, said they are concerned about reduced state support but are more assured knowing they will at least have stable enrollments next year.

Bellevue Deputy Superintendent Karen Clark said she fears losing state and federal grants that have allowed the district to shrink primary classes from 25 to 20 students.

"We've made great strides in reducing class sizes this year, and it's important we hold on to that, but we're hearing that these grants may go away," she said.

Suburban schools aren't the only ones feeling the budget strain.

The Seattle School District, the largest in the state, will have to trim $11 million to balance its $450 million budget. It plans to make schools buy back central- office services with their own budgets to save money.

Officials attribute the shortfall to reduced state support, a new teachers-union contract and debt payments on a new district headquarters.

Here is a sample of four suburban school districts' budget outlooks for next school year:

• Lake Washington school officials are projecting a shortfall of $2 million to $2.4 million, based on projected declining state support, an enrollment drop, increased utility costs and paying cost-of-living raises for educators. It has a $158.6 million budget this year.

According to the governor's budget plan, the district could lose a block grant it has used to hire more elementary-school counselors and offer more teacher training, programs to track truants and help students struggling academically, and money to help pay energy costs and insurance, said Collard, the assistant superintendent.

Increased utility costs could mean a $700,000 hit to the district, he said.

The state's 3.6 percent raise for educators could cost an additional $720,000 because Lake Washington, like most area districts, hires more educators for more days than the state funds, Collard said.

Enrollment declines likely will cost the district an additional $1 million, with a projected 250-student loss, Collard said. The state pays districts roughly $4,000 per student.

Eastside educators and city planners speculate lower enrollments are caused by high housing costs, fewer babies being born and older residents not selling their homes after their kids graduate — hence, fewer young families moving in.

While educators are nervous about the impending cuts, Collard said he is confident they can keep most programs.

"Obviously, as the state's economic picture deteriorates, we become particularly concerned, but we're trying to keep cuts out of the classroom," he said.

Superintendent Karen Bates has asked district groups to prioritize programs. She will recommend budget cuts to the school board at a public study session Monday.

• The Mercer Island School District expects to fall short by up to $1.6 million of its roughly $30 million budget. Declining enrollment of up to 117 students is a big blow — a $468,000 loss — to a 4,200-student district. It lost 109 students this year.

Paying cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, to educators will cost the district $150,000 to $175,000, Associate Superintendent Mike Ziara said.

"When 82 percent of our funding is tied up in salaries and benefits, there will have to be some reduction in employment costs, and I don't know what that means yet," Ziara said.

• The Renton School District is planning for a $1 million shortfall, Assistant Superintendent Rich Moore said. Most in jeopardy, he said, are 10 teaching positions to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through fourth grade.

"We're trying hard to avoid losing those positions," he said, adding that it would likely deal with the loss through attrition.

It could also lose its block grant for updating classroom materials and funding security in schools, he said. The COLA raises will cost the district $600,000.

• The Edmonds School District, while expecting a slight enrollment drop, is projecting a $4 million budget shortfall next year. The COLA payments to educators above what the state will cover will cost the district $1.6 million, business director Marla Miller said. It could also lose $1 million from the elimination of a fund for class-size reduction. If the district's budget shrinks, so does the amount it can collect from the levy, which could cost it an additional $1.2 million. And it will likely lose $400,000 in block grants it has used to hire additional teachers and classroom aides. "We're bracing ourselves and watching the Legislature very closely," Miller said.

Seattle Times
February 27, 2002

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Perhaps he just lost his heart for the battle.

AWOL

adjective, adverb
1. away from military duties without permission, but without the intention of deserting.
noun
2. a soldier or other military person who is absent from duty without leave.
Idiom
3. go AWOL,
a. to depart from military duty without leave.
b. to absent oneself without explanation.

AWOL is one of those expression that comes with a bit of baggage. It always seems to conjure up images of military service, shaved heads, basic training and following direction without thought or rationalization. It almost seems to suggest that people using the term are in a position of earned status or acquired rank through exceptional service to a military organization.

Normally, school districts don't use the draft to expand their ranks. They don't issue salad suits or send their recruits to basic training to do push-ups all day in the hot sun. They don't issue rifles or belittle rookies with oppressive and offensive language from perpetually irate drill Sergeants. They don't allow staff to kill strangers that might threaten the security of the Superintendent.

But somehow, the term AWOL finds it's way into the District through lesser minds fixated on structure and the chain of command. If you are given the rank of staff Sergeant, you quickly learn to make demands of staff - as if they cannot think or develop an opinion. As if the new recruits are just warm bodies with trigger fingers. It is very unfortunate to possess such a narrow view of public service. At the District, everyone enlisted and everyone has something to contribute.

Here is a rather comical depiction of my last few days through the eyes of a man that chooses to view staff like drafted Privates.

Attendance regarding M
March 1: emergency or vacation, (furnace trouble at home)
May 7: medical appointments
May 21: sick
May 29: AWOL
May 31: AWOL
June 4: sick
June 5: AWOL
June 6: AWOL in the afternoon
June 7: AWOL. May have been here for a short time between 7 and 8 AM
June 8: AWOL

To this day, I still find it amusing that my former supervisor actually spent time trying to track where I spent my final days with the District. He apparently has absolutely no comprehension as to the nature of the work that I was performing for the District and therefore can have no expectations of my replacement.

When faced with fewer than two weeks to wrap up projects and meet with parent groups and developers, a departing member of staff may not have much time to sit around and drink tea and eat crumpets with co-workers. If that was management's expectation, I am sorry because I don't work that way.

Equally amusing is the suggestion that all other days I somehow checked in or requested permission to do my job. I knew what I was paid a salary to accomplish and I did what I was expected to do. It was what I had been doing for the last six-and-a-half years. When I met with the Facilities Director, it was to provide him with an update on what I determined was important. He just stared with vacant eyes and suggested that I "develop a policy for that". Apparently, he must have heard a lot of managers use that expression in the past.

One thing is absolutely certain. Someone has actively decided to change the dynamic of our District. Clearly, Nick Brossoit meant business when he said he wanted to change things. I just wish he would have tried to change them for the better. It must be better for him, because it isn't better for the rest of us.

Fun Factoid: I was in a British comedy called "Soldier, Soldier". They were filming scenes in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

The high price of outsourcing reconfigurations.

There was a time when the Planning and Property Management Specialist met with departments, designed work environments, counted inventory, physically performed reconfigurations and ensured that every impacted user was satisfied. Those days are apparently behind us.

Not long ago, when Capital Projects was reconfigured, the grand total came to $900 and it was done overnight by a highly capable individual with a lot of experience in doing reconfigurations. While the office manager for Capital Projects complained about the cost and seemed to take forever to pay the tab, it was an amazing deal at just $100 per cubicle. That, my loyal readers, is a bargain for any agency - public or private.

Facilities Operations just finished a reconfiguration for the sole purpose of providing a window seat for the Director. Grand total? $11,000. Parts were purchased that weren't needed because no one counted inventory. Earlier inventory lists were apparently misplaced or deleted by the District because no one knew what they were deleting before they deleted it.

The work took place during the work day - interrupting the productivity of many, no doubt. The noise must have been disruptive. The people moving around with parts and pieces must have heightened the probability of injury to ESC occupants. The justification for having the work performed during the work day was purely financial, of course. The hourly rate must have been the determining factor. Someone wanted to save some money, but didn't look at the price tag for the entire project and just decide to make due with what exists.

Even more problematic is that no one from the District was there during the reconfiguration to take notes or discover how everything works. Next time a reconfiguration is planned, it will involve expensive designers and project workers from an outside vendor.

Is this really the way we want our public funds to be spent during another budget crisis? Are these the sorts of decisions that are being made when dedicated employees are facing the budget axe?

Fun Factoid: This reconfiguration works out to be $1,570 per cubicle and four of these cubicles are smaller than the building standard.

Friday, March 28, 2008

MRSA symptoms create ill feelings.

A Beverly Elementary School student was playing in the school gym last week when suddenly stricken with symptoms of MRSA, an intense but treatable flu-like virus that has made headlines with outbreaks at other schools.

The Beacon was informed of the incident last week by an anonymous caller.

The Edmonds School District viewed the situation as non-threatening to other students at the school. Staff then acted in accordance with Snohomish County Health District guidelines by opting against issuing a public notice to the community.

As a precaution, however, school staffers did conduct special sanitary measures.

“The only time the health district gets involved is when there’s a threat to the community from one of the reportable diseases,” says Suzanne Pate of the Snohomish Health District. “Apparently that’s not the case here.”

MRSA is not on the list of 7,000 communicable diseases that require reporting to the health district – despite the public anxiety created by similar outbreaks at schools like Holy Rosary in Edmonds in recent months.

Staff at Holy Rosary, a K-8 private Catholic school, opted to cancel classes for a week in response to a MRSA infection late last year. The school spent “thousands of dollars” on sanitary measures in the wake of the incident, a spokesman says.

Gov. Christine Gregoire recently explored the possibility of adding MRSA to the list of communicable diseases reportable to the health district. But since the disease is relatively common – 15 percent of the population is immune to the virus but carries it inside their nasal passages – medical experts advise against elevating it to the list of reportable diseases.

MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) most commonly afflicts student athletes involved in sports like wrestling or other skin-to-skin contact sports.

Public health officials underscore the fact that MRSA is a treatable infection, although not all antibiotics are effective. Common signs of a skin infection include redness, warmth, swelling and tenderness.

If untreated, MRSA infections can progress to a more serious stage, and in extreme cases may even result in death.

Jesse Nance
Edmonds Beacon

I think any parent would prefer to be aware of even a remote risk.


Editorial: Witty title. Care to come to work for the blog?

Tatiana was marked absent today.

"Hi. I'm calling from Alderwood Middle School. The reason I'm calling is Tatiana was marked absent today. If you could give us a call back at 425-431-7579 and let us know what is going on that'd be great. Tatiana will be marked unexcused until we hear back from you. Thank you."

What are the odds that an attendance secretary from Alderwood Middle School would call my home and report that my daughter Tatiana was marked absent. Of course, if I was her parent, I would want to know that my daughter didn't make it to school.

As a dedicated member of the community and an advocate for district efficiency, I immediately called back to report that the wrong number had been dialed. Unfortunately, I kept getting a machine.

I suppose it wasn't enough that my voicemail greeting includes the names of everyone in my house, along with the telephone number that was just dialed. Perhaps I should add that we do not have any children.

What was scheduled to happen while the school waited for me to return their call? What if I never called them back? What if a search party was needed and precious hours passed while I casually ignored their message? What if Tatiana had been hit by a school bus speeding by Alderwood Middle School and nobody noticed she was injured and laying in a ditch?

I hope everything turned out all right. No one called me back to provide closure.

Legitimate advertiser or a phishing expedition?

As our numbers continue to climb, so do the requests to advertise for others. It remains our policy to not accept payment from anyone, at any time, for any reason, whatsoever. Sure, we might direct you to a link somewhere else, but no one pays us to do so.

Dear Mr. Zandberg,

We have reviewed your blog on behalf of one of our clients that is very interested in placing advertising with you.

Client profile: [deleted]
[web address deleted]
Theme: [deleted]

We'd like either a 150x150 button, 160x600 skyscraper or 468x60 full banner (or footer). Alternatively, we may be interested in text-only advertising.

This would be a weekly, monthly or yearly arrangement. In either case we will require a one time, one day (24 hours) free placement in order to test the quality and quantity of traffic your website can actually provide*. Within this interval, we will make a final determination, based on the traffic volume, quality, and your asking price. Should we find your terms acceptable, this trial day will count towards the agreed interval.

Kindly let us know if you would be interested, which arrangement best suits your editorial needs, and what rates you would like to charge. We prefer using PayPal but may be able to accommodate alternative payment methods.

Thank you.
[Name deleted]
[Contact information deleted]


*Please note that we employ software that reliably detects autoclick and autosurf bots, pay per click and paid to surf type traffic, and other such non-human traffic. This may be a concern for you, especially if you are buying "bulk traffic", or employing the services of dubious "SEO experts".

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Revolutions are not about trifles, but they spring from trifles.

We welcome the promise of spring, warmer weather, more daylight, and being a part of the growth that happens in our world. Here are some "spring things" that are valuable at any time of the year and essential for all of us to be effective at our respective work in public education. Thank you for your consistent, caring, and competent service to the students and families in our community.

Good things start with our own behavior. As a person and professional when we model a high concern for all people and a high concern for productivity, we see the results we want from the relationships we need.

Translation: Management is permitted to behave badly and to engage in hostile tactics to belittle and degrade you. We have the backing of the organization and can claim that you are at fault for all of the District's current woes. Of course, since we are modeling no concern for anyone but ourselves, we obviously don't want to see any results because results are measurable and that is the last thing we need right now.

Unconditional love for all people, even those who are tough to love, is still the best way.

Translation: I have heard other people use this expression and it seemed like a good thing to include here. Of course, we employ a slightly different tactic. We like to call it "Tough Hate". We hate everyone we can't effectively bully, control or manipulate into violating public trust without being detected.

Think proactively about how best to do the work, and invest in the growth and development of people. Empower people to do their job, but don’t abandon them with an impossible assignment.

Translation: Ponder ways to reduce your workload while increasing your pay. Delegate your work to people who still believe it is necessary to exert effort for a paycheck. We don't consider our enemies to be people, so bury them with work and if they start thinking about ways to adjust your management model, assign more work to them and shorten every timeline.

Adjust your leadership behavior to match the needs of others. Competent and committed people need supportive leadership behaviors. If a person is not competent or committed, it is our first job to help them grow.

Translation: Show your allies how to conduct "power meetings" where sitting around and talking about important things can replace actual implementation. People that work for the District, but seek to use public money appropriately, should be shown the door. The growth they seek is inconsistent with the current management model.

Some conflict is a natural part of all things where people with different values and limited resources exist. Always use "what is best for learning" as the North Star to process these issues. Focus people’s attention on something more important than their own opinion.

Translation: No translation needed. The opinions of others are not important.

It will always be a little personal when dealing with parents about their kids, but don’t take their behavior personally in working through issues and trying to help. Treatment of people is so important. Always do what is right, regardless of who came up with the idea.

Translation: People tend to be hyper-sensitive about the crap you pound into their child's head. Smile and nod as frequently as possible. Use terms like, "I understand" and "I feel the same way." Always do what you want. What you want is always right. If we think it isn't, we'll force you to "grow".

Simplify paperwork and preserve the purpose of the process by not letting service to the bureaucracy hinder service to people. Respect people’s time and energy and focus efforts on those things that will really make a difference for learning.

Translation: Don't write anything down. Do not praise employees in writing. Value other people's time by not meeting with them. If they want to "meet" with you, they likely are not your ally. Offer them an opportunity for "growth".

Have a sense of pride in your work, but stay in balance. Everyone around you benefits from a happier and healthier "you." Have life interests beyond work. Delight in the success of others.

Translation: Since you work for money, take pride in maximizing your earnings while minimizing your effort. Spend as much time away from your cubicle as possible. Take pleasure in your tasks being completed by your underlings.

It is good to work hard, work smart, and play some, too!

Translation: Do all of your vacation planning at work. Make sure your support staff are adequately distracted by the tasks you have assigned. Great leaders always look like they're having fun. If you have a lot of fun, people might mistake you for a great leader.

Be a student and learn from everyone. Share what you learn.

Translation: Even an Assistant Superintendent can learn from a bookkeeper. What you learn can be shared with friends, family, property developers and Rotarians.

Editorial: Taken from the March paycheck letter from Nick Brossoit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The other shoes will start dropping like rain.

Good morning, everyone

I wanted to let you know that June 30, 2008 will be my last day serving as Manager of Business Operations. I will continue working in the Business Services department after June 30, but in a different position and part-time capacity.

Thank you for all of the support you have provided; I appreciate the opportunity working with you over the years.

All the best-
Manny

The new assignment...

Subject: Reminder: Send in your endorsement stamps

Good morning, everyone

Just a reminder for you to please send in your endorsement stamps for the back of checks if the imprint is not legible.

We will refurbish your endorsement stamp by cleaning the rubber surface if necessary, and either re-inking the stamp pad or replacing it completely if that is what is needed. Send in your endorsement stamp to my attention via regular in-district mail. I'll make sure the endorsement stamps are returned to you when the regular mail run resumes on April 7.

Thank you- and I hope you have a wonderful spring break.

Manny

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It is not necessary to advertise food to hungry people.

If we are so supportive of the idea of educating our children in the best and most effective manner possible, why would we be so alarmed by the notion of hundreds seeking their diplomas outside of the Edmonds School District? As any responsible parent will tell you, they want what is best for their child. If that means a little research into which districts offer the most academically-enriching curriculum, then these parents should seek out the better opportunities and pursue them.

As a society, would we tolerate the brutalization of our neighbors if they refused to shop at the "assigned" neighborhood store? If this store was managed by an overpaid, unenlightened and incredibly rude imbecile, wouldn't we naturally seek out more acceptable options? If the lights buzzed loudly and the place smelled of sewage, wouldn't that just add to the misery and further compel us to shop elsewhere? Under what authority does this district have the right to financially-starve our classrooms through mismanagement of resources and then demand that we keep our children in-district?

In fact, for the many of you that have offered to financially support this blog, perhaps we should pool our money and buy bus passes for any child seeking greener pastures anywhere else. Perhaps we could even buy a bus and offer a shuttle service from Mountlake Terrace High School to Shorecrest High School. As demand for our services shoots upward, we could expand to offer a similar shuttle from Edmonds Woodway High School to Shorewood High School. If you are interested, send me an email.

While Nick refuses to spend public money advertising the success of our school district, he apparently has no problem handing over $2,500,000.00 to a man from Medina whose sole interest is in building bigger vineyards in Woodinville. All the while, the Bobbleheads do nothing more than utter "Aye" on command, daftly enamored by the man's pearly whites.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Undermine Nick's monopoly by voting with your feet.

A great article by Lynn Thompson.

Basically, Mercer Island is opening it's enrollment to off-island students to prevent a loss of $500,000 because of their own aging population and therefore declining enrollment.

The prospect of one district actively competing with another for students and the accompanying state funds strikes some school administrators as wrong. Edmonds Superintendent Nick Brossoit said he "wouldn't want to be a part of" a plan that used public money to market one district at the expense of another.

[Translation: We can't compete with anyone and certainly wouldn't want our residents to know they have a choice.]


The Shoreline district, which for years enjoyed an excellent reputation, draws about 700 out-of-district students annually, including about 300 from Seattle and 300 from Edmonds. Mukilteo enrolls 440 out-of-district students, about two-thirds from the much-larger Everett district and one-third from Edmonds. [450 students translates to $2,250,000.00]

Here is a great version of accountability - portability. Why is Nick opposed to giving people a choice? If a better product is being offered by a better organization, why not let students vote with their feet. It seems like a very American and democratic thing to do. If your school district is being mismanaged and scarce resources are being given to friends of management and crooked developers, why not opt for Shoreline, Mukilteo or Mercer Island.

The Edmonds School District has been counting anything and everything that looks and feels like a student for years. They focus on student retention, not because they care about kids and their success, but because of the $5,000.00 of free money that comes from the state. Why not encourage successful school districts to focus on becoming even more successful? Where is the harm in that? Don't we want success?

I have grown tired of my taxes being used to build Nick Brossoit's version of a legacy.

Comment: Thank you to M.D. for providing this information.

When rocket scientists perform brain surgery.

Colleagues,

At today’s P-12 meeting you heard that in addition to other ideas which will be processed in the next few weeks, there are some non-school administrative adjustments and consolidations included to address the 08-09 operational budget. [Translation: We have started the process of saving our friends.] One of these adjustments in my area is with the Student Outreach and Support Department. Jan Beglau has headed that department for 4 years. Among her responsibilities are assisting administrators with student discipline appeals, threat assessment, readmissions, Safe and Drug Free Schools, Becca, Homeless identifications and transportation, drop out prevention, and other areas. [Translation: This is an area slated to see budget reductions. It offers the greatest sympathy from our supportive public and maximizes the chances of passing an unrelated Tech levy.]

We are doing some work to reorganize administrative responsibilities so that Jan can perform the work as Athletic Director for the district, a position vacated by Terri McMahon’s leave and retirement. [Her last name is actually spelled McMahan] Jan has all the skills and abilities to become a high quality director. [Translation: On-the-job training, at taxpayer expense.] Her flexibility in accepting this position is truly admirable. [Dodging a budget axe is more about survival and instinct] She will continue with some of her present assignment; however, other responsibilities are being taken by different administrators including Mark Madison, Sue Venable and me. [How can people who were apparently working 40 hours a week, now take on more work?] Once all of this is re-organized, we will be sharing a new organizational chart so you will know who is responsible for which areas for the 08-09 school year, beginning July 1st this summer.

Please join me in welcoming her to this new position and sharing our appreciation for her work in all areas.

Sincerely,
Ken [Limon]

This appears to set the record straight. Clearly the reports about Cathy Bohnhoff were premature. It is hard to predict the actions of a public agency that doesn't follow the rules.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why Choose the Edmonds School District?

Our Mission
To advocate for all students by providing a learning environment which empowers students, staff and the community to maximize their personal, creative and academic potential in order to become lifelong learners and responsible world citizens.

Three reasons to choose Edmonds

Freedom to be creative
Each school is encouraged to design innovative programs to meet the unique needs of students. As a result, there are many different models of school success across the district, and a host of resident experts to call on.

Shared decision making
Through a collaborative effort [insert laughter here], a set of principles for decision making have been established which reinforce the belief that those who are affected by the decision will be consulted and involved in the process [insert laughter here]. You really do have a say in what happens [insert laughter here].

Resources focused on schools
As a highly decentralized district [insert laughter here], Edmonds continues to shift resources to schools and to classrooms, and educators are charged with the responsibility for deciding the best use of resources [insert laughter here].

Edmonds is an affirmative action employer

We encourage inquiries and applications from minorities and women for all positions. We do not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, or handicap, as required by state and federal laws.

Back to
Human Resources Home, Classified Listings, or Certificated Listings.

What is with all of the upcoming vacancies for Elementary School Principals? Meadowdale, Beverly, and Mountlake Terrace. The District is now starting an Elementary Principal Pool.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

District Audiologist to become Athletic Director?

I have been trying to figure out this move for the last three minutes. Just how is an audiologist qualified to be an athletic director for a school district? It must be all of those screaming kids cheering for their teammate to slide into home. Maybe it has something to do with all of those rowdy parents yelling at the umpire or referee.

I just can't see the immediate connection, aside from an act of desperation by the Superintendent to save an ally from the chopping block. The Audiologist's position can be cut and those dollars can be saved, but moving her to a higher paying position, clearly out of her field of expertise, seems like a gift of funds. Is this payback for services rendered to family members (or perhaps someone else)?

Here is a link that provides an overview of the profession of audiologist. If I missed the paragraph about athletic direction, someone please tell me.
http://www.asha.org/students/professions/overview/audiology.htm

A recent memo concerning Cathy Bohnhoff and yet, no mention of athletic programs in the District.

Dear Parents and Guardians:

Starting in 2007-2008, our district will be complying with Washington State requirements for vision and hearing screening of grades kindergarten through grade 3, grades 5 and 7. This is a change from the past when we have screened all elementary grade students and K-8 students as a courtesy. We will comply with regulations by also screening any student who is identified as showing symptoms of hearing or vision difficulties (WAC 246-760-020). This change is the result budget constraints and increased caseloads for our nurses, our audiology staff, and the screening teams.

If you have any questions, please either Cathy Bohnhoff, Audiologist (425-431-7203) or Nancy Sutherland, Health Services Department Chairperson (425-431-1181).

Would someone kindly explain this to the rest of us?

Editorial: The picture above is of a child playing baseball.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A society of sheep will spawn a government of wolves.

In the field of education you would think that everyone knows how to read. When the 2004-2009 Capital Facilities Plan was presented to the Board, they nodded like a bunch of bobble heads. The information went in one ear, bounced around in the absence of matter, and then exited the other ear without leaving even a smidgen of data behind. The numbers told the story back then. Sadly, no one was listening - at least no one on the Board.

I remain convinced that district management uses student enrollment projections as weapons of war. They knew well in advance that demographic trends would impact their bottom line and yet they moved forward with raises for administrators with no regard for the financial storm that was brewing. How can any competent manager run a school district that way? What in the world would anyone be thinking to hand out raises to colleagues as the financial ship is taking on water. There has to be another reason. What could it be?

I suspect, under the ruse of declining enrollment, district management can target undesirable departments and eliminate threats to the monarchy. That's right, I said it. Things are looking more like a feudal society than a school district. There is clearly a class of nobles and a class of serfs.

Without a doubt, staff in the ESC will be in the cross hairs. During the last batch of cutbacks, the schools bled deeply. This time, it has to be administrative staff. The nobles must be cut and, of course, a few serfs will be lost in the bloodletting.

The memo distributed to staff sought input as to how these financial problems can be resolved. Here are a few ideas;

1. Eliminate the Warehouse Manager position and create a warehouse lead among the remaining staff. This would be a reduction of $65,000 plus benefits and the expense of providing a district vehicle for personal use. This also takes the additional step of limiting exposure to legal action by warehouse staff - because that is only a matter of time.
Savings: $65,000.00 plus benefits (and legal time and energy)

2. Eliminate the Facilities Operations Director position and have the Custodial Manager and Maintenance Manager report directly to the Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations. If there is a communication problem, get over it. The District doesn't need to spend more than $100,000.00 to have operational issues translated from complex to excessively simple. Cut out the fat in the middle and save some real money.
Savings: $104,000.00 plus benefits

3. Eliminate the Planning and Property Management Specialist position and shift whatever morsels remain to other staff. General fund projects should move to Maintenance and Capital fund projects should go to Facilities Construction. The bus stop locations have already moved to the District's main web page and the position has been effectively vacant since June 11, 2007. This move would also buoy the District's chances in court since they clearly sought to eliminate the position when constructively terminating the last competent Specialist. The District could then make a more righteous argument when facing litigation.
Savings: $58,000.00 plus benefits

4. Reverse the raises that were handed out to administrators last year. It was a bad idea at the time and has only proven to be even worse since then. If these administrators object, offer to write them a very favorable letter of recommendation for their job search.
Savings: $550,000.00

5. Ken Limon and Ellen Kahan should retire. Both have looked for opportunities to become a Superintendent and haven't succeeded. Why should the District foot the bill until they succeed?
Savings: $282,000.00 plus benefits

6. Consolidate the Risk Manager and Safety Specialist into a single position and hire an insurance clerk to communicate with the Risk Management Pool. Other districts do it this way and it has been working for years.
Savings: $30,000.00 plus benefits

7. Release Manny Juzon from his position. No one knows what he does anyway and when the heat from the Auditor comes in, you could claim that you have already corrected the problems. He can be the fall guy.
Savings: $96,000.00 plus benefits

8. Adjust the Payroll Supervisor position back to a rate of pay that has nothing to do with personal ties to Marla Miller. The position should earn something closer to $65,000.00, not the obscene amount currently doled out each year.
Savings: $25,000.00 plus a portion of benefits

Putting these eight suggestions into effect will offset the student enrollment shortfall and save $1,300,000.00.

Enrollment losses, raises from Olympia deepen woes

The Edmonds School District faces an estimated $4.1 million in cuts for the 2008-09 school year. What will be cut hasn't been decided, but the process for coming up with possible cuts has begun.

The state Legislature wrapped up its session Thursday, March 13, and some of its decisions, including pay raises for staff, are hitting districts hard. "We are figuring right now we are going to be in a more serious budget balancing situation than we had anticipated," said Marla Miller, assistant superintendent.

District officials are still calculating the results of legislative decisions, but right now are looking at about $4.1 million in cuts, Miller said.

As for the COLAs, voters approved COLAs for teachers and other staff years ago, but lawmakers suspended those COLAs in the 2003-05 budget. This session, they restored .5 percent of those COLAs, in addition to a 3.9 percent COLA, for a total of 4.4 percent.

At the same time, they did not fully fund the raise. The state funds some positions in the district and not others -- about 7 percent of positions are not state funded, Miller said. In addition, legislators increased pension rates for employees, another financial hit, Miller said. "Everyone I know (in other districts) has adjusted their thinking because of the COLA and the pension," Miller said. The COLA and pension increases are estimated to cost the district about $2.3 million, she said.

There are other factors hitting the district's pocketbook. The district has faced declining student enrollment for years, and in 2008-09, extra employee costs kick in from the contract negotiated with the Edmonds Education Association, the teacher's union, in spring 2007.

District managers will meet this month and next to generate a list of potential cuts. After April 14, they will have a better idea of how to balance the budget, Miller said.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

By Sarah Koenig
Enterprise reporter

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A fool with money to burn soon meets his match.

This is an update for all of our staff regarding the budget situation and planning process for 2008-09. With the adjournment of the Legislature last Thursday, we now know the details of the State budget that has been forwarded to the Governor for her signature.

The State’s recommended budget has several significant financial impacts for 2008-09 for school districts across the state:
1. approves a 4.4% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
2. approves an average 2.64% increase in retirement contribution rates paid by the employer
3. eliminates funding for the Promoting Academic Success (PAS) program (extended support for struggling students)
4. makes numerous smaller adjustments in funding for specific categories of expenditures

What does it mean for Edmonds School District?

The largest share of our district general fund budget (over 86%) pays salaries, taxes, and benefits for staff. When salaries and related costs are increased, the impact to our general fund is significant.

When the biennial budget was adopted by the Legislature one year ago, the 2008-09 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for school district employees was budgeted at 2.8%. With the budget approved last week, that COLA has been increased to 4.4% and mandatory employer retirement contribution rates increased by an average of 2.64% (our staff are members of 6 different retirement plans, and the rate increases vary by plan).

In our district and in most districts across the state, all employees receive the same COLA, regardless of whether their salary is funded by the state or not. Participation in the state retirement system is mandatory based on certain criteria, so employer contributions to the retirement system are also mandatory. You may remember from previous years that with each % increase in COLA and retirement rates approved by the Legislature, Edmonds School District bears the cost of providing those same increases for the employees that are not funded with state or federal monies. For the coming year, we calculate that every % increase in COLA and pension rates equates to an increased cost for us of $325,000. With the combined effect of 4.4% COLA and 2.64% retirement contributions, our 2008-09 budget needs to cover $2.28 million in local costs for increased salaries and taxes.

In addition, the elimination of state funding for the PAS program reduces our state revenue by $340,000.

What other factors are impacting our 2008-09 budget?

Our negotiated agreement with each employee group includes a commitment to make “mid-point” adjustments to salaries to bring compensation to the average level of a specified group of neighboring districts. Last week we completed the calculations of mid-point adjustments for 2007-08, and the total cost for all groups is $1.5 million. This amount is paid in 2007-08 and then becomes part of the base salary for 2008-09, so we need to add it to our list of expenditure impacts for the 2008-09 budget.

We are also projecting a continuation of the recent decline in enrollment, with 256 fewer students next year. Each student generates approximately $5,000 in state revenue.

The combined effect of the state COLA and pension rates, mid-point compensation, enrollment decline and other impacts is that we will need to reduce our expenditures for next year by roughly $4.2 million to cover increased costs, primarily in the area of compensation.

How are potential reductions being identified to balance the budget?

Superintendent’s Staff recommended and the School Board agreed in January we would NOT change the staffing ratios for basic education classroom teaching positions for next year.

All other areas of the General Fund are being carefully examined to determine the best way to reduce costs with the least impact to our students, while meeting our bargained commitments and other legal mandates.

What is the timeline and process for determining budget reductions?

Superintendent’s Staff has been reviewing the General Fund budget for the past several weeks and researching potential areas for reductions. The list developed by supt.’s staff will be forwarded to the Budget Advisory Council (BAC) for input and feedback, and then presented to the P-12 administrative team in April. BAC will refine the list of proposed reductions based on the feedback from P-12, and a recommendation will be made to the superintendent. The superintendent must ultimately recommend a balanced budget to the School Board in late June or early July, with final adoption of the budget required by state law by August 31st.

Individuals whose positions may be affected by reductions will be notified by their supervisors, just as soon as possible. To the extent we can and still allow time for communicating first with those affected, we will share information as it becomes available.

In closing

In recent years we’ve experienced the compounding effects of declining enrollment, increasing personnel costs, and weaning our district from the intentional use of reserves to balance the budget. At times it is discouraging to work so hard, and still feel the uncertainty each year of having the financial resources necessary to support the incredibly important work of public education.

In spite of the difficulty all districts face with inadequate funding, it’s important to remember there has been demonstrable support from the people of Washington for public education in the past few years. Voters have approved increasing compensation through regular Cost of Living Adjustments, funding for I-728 and early learning programs, and allowing schools to pass local levies with a simple majority. Our local voters have supported our program/instructional levy, construction bonds, and capital/technology levy, and we’ll be asking them to renew the capital/tech levy again this May. These are important acknowledgements that most people in our state and local region support schools and appreciate the individual and collective efforts of public school employees. We just need the Legislature to adopt a more stable funding mechanism for essential state services. (Just a note: our District is still part of the group suing the State to adequately fund Basic Education . . . the case is now scheduled to begin hearings in March, 2009).

I’m sorry it’s another tough year for budget planning. It’s always challenging to make the adjustments necessary by June to implement decisions completed by the Legislature in March!

Thanks for all you do, and please feel free to share any ideas you think should be explored for balancing next year’s budget. (Read the Blog)

Marla Miller
Assistant Superintendent, Business and Operations
Ext. 7036

Editorial: The 2004-2009 Capital Facilities Plan predicted this reduction in student enrollment, but alas, the Board didn't read the CFP before (or after) adopting it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Earning money cannot be the purpose of education.

This list includes all employees working in the ESC, Maintenance or the Warehouse earning more than $65,000.00 a year, but less than $100,000.00. The Warehouse Supervisor made the cut, but the Maintenance Supervisor, being relatively new to his position, is not included though his earnings would likely be $89,434.00.


Nancy Cartwright: $98,459.00
Sydney Voorhees: $98,459.00

Scott Barnes: $96,059.00
Debra Born: $96,059.00
Jo Callaghan: $96,059.00
Alicia Carter: $96,059.00
Tim Garberich: $96,059.00
Manny Juzon: $96,059.00

Kim Mathey: $96,059.00
Bill McKeighen: $96,059.00
Beverly Reed: $96,059.00
Nick Chou: $94,137.00
Catherine Birdsong: $89,835.90
Laura (Lewis) Barney: $89,434.00
Sara Conroy: $89,434.00
Robert Hansen: $89,434.00
Debbie Jakala: $89,434.00
Donovan Bray: $80,186.80
Wayne Elsaesser: $76,368.80
Carmen Urrutia: $76,368.80
Carl Shutoff: $74,987.26
Barb Day: $74,532.51
Gary Howlett: $74,532.51
Christopher Rich: $74,532.51
Nicholas Szumlas: $74,532.51
Dennis Olson: $74,191.55
Deanna Carter: $73,782.51
Jacqueline McDonald: $73,282.51
Beverly Cartwright: $72,145.85
Suzanne Bauman: $71,918.70
Nancy Sutherland: $71,804.90
Susanne Paris: $71,736.80
Catherine Lamson: $71,236.80
Nancy Parle: $70,986.80
Shelly Dearmon: $70,538.69
Lori Soderberg: $70,381.95
Cynthia Anderson: $70,373.00
Margo Allen: $69,269.80
Cathy Bohnhoff: $68,412.16
Nancy Caldwell: $68,224.00
Mel Cooke: $67,453.26
Mary Peck: $67,474.00
Anne Stewart: $67,451.75
Lois Albers: $66,974.00
Luke McQuade: $66,871.65
Valetta Kayda: $66,724.00
Kirk Barney: $65,968.80
Clint Goodison: $65,968.80
Eddie McGehee: $65,968.80
Charles Penney: $65,968.80
Katie Sherwood: $65,968.80
Lisa (Liebert) Skinner: $65,968.80

It is not a sacrifice if you love what you're doing.

From time to time, we'll roll out a few emails from happier times at the District. For instance, here is a great piece of work characterizing the manner in which I contributed to the District. Mr. Harding may recall a conversation where I had asked Marla just exactly who she thought was covering my former supervisor's workload. She plunked her little thumb into her chest and quickly snatched up the credit.

Funny that she felt the need to take credit while at the same time hiring Mr. Young to take a little pressure off of my workload.


From: Miller, Marla (ESC)
Sent: Friday, March 24, 2006 10:01 AM
To: Young, Stephen (ESC); Zandberg, Mark (ESC)
Subject: Input on Priorities

Hi, Steve and Mark,

I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you two are working together on the multitude of tasks Mark has been juggling since Bret left. . . I’ve felt derelict in my ability to support Mark as he moves through them!

Just from my perspective (you may have more/other information that compels other priorities and I trust your judgment!), I’d ask if you could prioritize the following projects:

- Oak Heights sewer close-out issues (an update I can share tonight with Bill Heide would be appreciated!)
- 2004 Levy fencing project implementation
- Solution to Former Woodway High eastside rear access and overall site signage needs (keep in mind a name change for the site may be coming, but please don’t hold up the project for that – as you’ve already pointed out and planned, Mark, we just need to have signage that is easily changed out as the programs/names change)
- Evergreen Elementary signage

Mark, I also prepped the Board for the upcoming action item to purchase the easement on the Old Woodway Elementary site. Ready when we are!

Thanks tons for all you’re doing,

Marla

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"...for the essence of generosity is in self sacrifice."

I have always believed that the difference between your value as an employee and the salary you are paid is a charitable contribution to your community. Well, Maintenance employees are among the most generous people in our community. Day after day, they contribute the value of their labor for a salary that falls terribly short of what is reasonable.

The current Planning and Property Management Specialist position, which was recently converted to clerical support, earns more than 88% of Maintenance staff. Only five earn a smidge more than Brian Harding's new secretary, and generally had to put in decades of service to crawl to their lofty salaries of around $60,000.

Where does the clerical union stand in this situation? How was the District able to create a clerical position without seeking input from the union? Should there be a collection of union dues? Why wasn't this position made available to the dedicated staff that currently serve in a clerical capacity?

When selecting a vendor to supply products with a value greater than $5,000, district employees have to secure three quotes. But when hiring a person that will be earning nearly $60,000, two lackluster candidates were enough. Strange. That seems to be a rather twisted miscarriage of rational employment practices. Why wouldn't there be a mandatory minimum standard? How did the selection committee allow this to happen?

I would be curious to know just how many people on that selection committee actually live in the District and, arguably, would care just a little bit more about how local tax dollars are spent. Oh, that's right. I have those records. More later.

When expensive property is worth less.

Public Hearing: Street Vacations: Edmonds School District

Mayor Gough opened the public hearing. He discussed the purpose, order of speaking and procedures of the hearing. He mentioned that prior to the Question and Answer process, an Executive Session would be held to receive the advice of legal counsel concerning one matter regarding this item.

He noted that they had received a communication from the Edmonds School District dated April 6, 2007 regarding Edmonds School District Street Vacation Request/204th Street SW and associated areas. This was a two-page letter signed by Marla S. Miller, Assistant Superintendent. It was noted that the letter included an attached diagram of parcels in the area associated with the rights of way that are being identified by staff. This letter was included officially in the record.

Staff Presentation:

Public Works Development Services Supervisor Arnold Kay reviewed this matter. He reviewed the history of the area of this proposed street vacation and future use of the proposed street vacations. He stated that after review, staff had concluded that street vacations would not impact current or future traffic plans. He then discussed the five ordinances under consideration and noted that Public Works was recommending vacation of the streets as proposed and approval of the ordinances.

Comment from the School District:

Edward Peters, Capital Projects Director, Edmonds School District, 20420 SW 68th Avenue, Lynnwood, spoke representing Marla Miller who was unable to attend. He stated that he concurred with the information that was presented and offered to answer any questions. He summarized the key points of the recent letter from the school district. The eastern portion of 204th was designated some time ago as a Natural Growth Protected Area (NGPA) and is fenced off. The land is not allowed to be developed or even touched. The school district feels that it is appropriate that the valuation of that land takes that into consideration, as discussed previously by Mr. Kay and as reflected by the diagram and table distributed to Council at the meeting.

I wonder if the eastern portion of 204th, to which Mr. Peters refers, (that is fenced off and not allowed to be developed) was valued at a lower rate than the remainder of the District's $5.6 million site.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

WASL may keep [many] from diplomas.

Diplomas may be on the line this week for high-school seniors who are otherwise on track to graduate but still need to pass a chunk of the state's high-stakes assessment test.

This week, the reading and writing portions of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) are being administered — it is the first year that a student must pass these portions in order to graduate, or show they have the required skills through approved alternatives.

But administrators and teachers say the number of seniors whose graduation status is at stake due to the WASL pales in comparison to the hundreds of seniors who are failing to meet other requirements.

Out of 853 seniors in Marysville School District, the upcoming WASL could be a potential graduation barrier for only 34 seniors, said Ray Houser, the district's executive director of teaching and learning.

Credit deficiency
He said that about 10 times that many were not on track to graduate on time due to lack of credits. "It's not these other factors that are impeding students from graduating — it's the low credits," he said. "We realize that it's not necessarily the assessment or the state requirements, but the inability to successfully navigate the classes," he said.

Marysville Superintendent Larry Nyland agreed, saying, "The WASL alone is not looming as quite as big as a barrier as we had once feared." "Students who are in school passing required courses, for the large majority, are getting over the WASL mark," Nyland said.

In the Edmonds School District, the most recent statistics show there are 1,563 students in the class of 2008. Of those, 47 have a sufficient number of credits to graduate but have not met the state standard in reading and/or writing (of those, more than half are taking the test for the first time). Alternatively, there are more than 400 students not considered on track to graduate because of credit requirements.

Monroe Public Schools said 24 seniors of 665 are on track to graduate with credits but have not yet passed the reading section of the WASL, while 22 still need to pass the writing section — and some of those may not have attempted the test before.

In Lake Stevens, where there are 476 in the class of 2008, only 18 still must pass the reading portion and nine the writing section.

In the Lakewood School District, where the total number of seniors at Lakewood High School is 147 — only two must complete the required portions of the WASL to graduate this spring, and both are transfer students from out of state who could qualify for a waiver. Those who are not on track to graduate typically struggle in math, said Joyce Scott, student-success coordinator for Lakewood. Scott said historically about 10 percent of the class does not graduate due to credit deficiency.

Some districts say a substantial number who still need to pass the reading and writing portions are enrolled in English Language Learners (ELL) services or special-education programs.

In Everett Public Schools, the number of seniors on track to graduate in credits but who need to pass the upcoming WASL sections is 54 for reading and 62 for writing out of 1,130 in the class of 2008. About half students are in special-education or ELL programs.

Math comes later
About 30 special-education students and 47 ELL students are among the 169 in the Mukilteo School District's class of 2008 who still need to pass reading, writing or both sections of the WASL. Seniors who have already passed the WASL, like Everett High School student Ray Naab, say it's a relief to have the requirement completed.

"I'm happy that it's out of the way," Naab said. "It's just one less thing I have to worry about." For those who fail to pass the reading or writing sections, the test will be offered again in August. Students have five state-paid tries to pass each subject. The math portion of the WASL, which is not a graduation requirement for this year's seniors, will be given in April.

Christina Siderius
425-745-7813
csiderius@seattletimes.com

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Providing equitable education and equitable access.

Karen Wolfe-Fritz, Edmonds resident and parent of a student in the District, shared concerns and questions related to the procedures in providing transportation to students in the choice programs, such as Maplewood and Madrona. She asked the Board why busing is only provided to those choice programs. She asked why, if a parent were to choose to have their student at a school other than their neighborhood school, why couldn't transportation be offered to them.

Ms. Wolfe-Fritz questioned whether the District's procedures complied with ensuring that all students were given equal access to education. She noted that Board members were stewards of tax dollars to ensure the provision of not only equitable education, but equitable access. She requested that the Board consider providing updated rationale and decisions that reflect equitability throughout the school district.

Her suggestions included either provide busing for all parents choosing to access another school for their children outside of the neighborhood or not to offer busing at all to any of the schools outside of a student's neighborhood service area. She suggested the Board consider that if the district wanted to consider offering choice programs in varying parts of the school district then parents should be asked to provide their own transportation.

Perhaps eliminating bus service entirely would best resolve issues such as these. Why would we leave it to a government agency to decide how best to spend public funds while public need goes unsatisfied? If every parent had to make arrangements to deliver their students to school, surely parents would find the most economical option available, whether it involves carpooling, public transportation, or homeschooling. Eliminating Transportation would make access equitable.

Regarding "choice programs", funding should follow the student to whatever school is selected. The students, with parents that care, will go to the better schools and the schools with dropping enrollment would either have to shut down or compete in a different way. Introducing a choice program could become a profit center and encourage schools to deliver a higher quality product or at least set themselves apart from other schools.

Perhaps funding should be tied directly to the academic performance of each student. If a student fails classes, they lose their buying power. They would start with a credit from the State, like the District receives, and they could choose to spend their allocation in a manner consistent with their career objectives. Consultations with parents could help each student determine their career path. If Johnny wants to become a rock star, let him take more music classes. If Susie wants get into college, let her dollars demand better math classes. No doubt it would promote student retention and diversify the spectrum of classes offered at public schools. I am just not sure there would be enough room for all of the X-box and skateboarding selections.

Liberty is independence, maintained by force.

March 13, 2008

Dear Mr. Zandberg:

Thank you for your e-mail of October 17, 2007, in which you express your concerns regarding the Edmonds School District. Please accept my apology for the lengthy delay (120 days) in responding to your message.

This office has no authority to intervene in the practices or policies of local school districts. These matters need to be negotiated at the local level with the school district’s board of directors and superintendent.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns with our office.

Sincerely,

Martin T. Mueller
Assistant Superintendent, Student Support
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
360-725-6175
martin.mueller@k12.wa.us

Editor: So OSPI's official position is that they have no authority to intervene in the practices or policies of local school districts. The Snohomish County Auditor has zero involvement and the State Attorney General's Office has zero involvement. That would suggest that the State Auditor is the only governing body that has any meaningful interaction with the Edmonds School District, and the relationship is strictly limited to "findings" and management letters.

The District monitors itself and has zero accountability - aside from the illusion of accountability to constituents.

A "proclamation" to stick on your mother's refrigerator.

March 12, 2008

Dear Colleagues:

At last night's regular meeting of the Board of Directors, we recognized all classified employees. Truly, in any school system the work of all staff combines into programs and services which make a powerful and positive difference for students.

Please join us in recognizing the work of these valuable members of our district team. A proclamation from the Governor honoring these employees is attached.

Sincerely,

Nick

P.S. Thank you for your hard work. A copy of a $100 bill is attached.

"Life is to be, to do, to do without, and to depart."

I wanted to let you know that Donovan Bray, our Network Supervisor, will be leaving our district. Donovan has been offered a great opportunity to work as Senior Developer for a private company, so please join me in wishing him the best.

Donovan and I will be working on a transition plan over the next two months. During this time, I will be working quickly to find us another well qualified Network Administrator. If you have any input into the process, it would be appreciated.

Cynthia Nelson

Editor: All the best in your new pursuits and thank you sincerely for all of your help.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A steady salary is an invitation to mediocrity

Brossoit:$202,758, Byrd:$136,251, Kahan:$136,251, Limon:$136,251, Carter:$130,671, Venable:$130,671, Miller:$125,080, Wysocki:$108,840, Nelson:$106,440, Harding:$104,312, Peters:$104,312, Katims:$103,514, Beglau:$101,114, Burkhardt:$101,114, Drew:$101,114, Lloyd:$101,114, Madison:$101,114, McMahan:$101,114, Osborne:$101,114.
Total: $2,233,149

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

If it is important for our teens to pass the WASL, then why are we testing them at 7:30 a.m.?

Haven't studies documented that teens are not fully alert prior to 9:00 a.m.? Why then are the kids at Edmonds-Woodway WASL testing from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. all week? I'm sure there is a good reason for testing at 7:30 a.m. Early morning testing is probably required due to overcrowding of the school, a desire to save money, sports schedules, or the personal convenience of an individual staff member (we need the kids finished by 9:30 a.m. so that so and so can get on with thus and such).

Still, what an incredible waste of public resources!

All the time, money and effort devoted to the WASL, and we ask the teens to perform with one hand tied behind their backs. If our teens don't pass the WASL, we won't even know if it was because they don't know the material, or because they were asleep when they took the test.

Maybe for the Math WASL in April we can look at a different testing schedule. Do you want to be tested on your Math skills at 7:30 a.m.?

Lora Petso

Fun Factoid: The District decided to rent tables for $5,000 to accommodate the WASL tests. At the last minute, "someone" decided to cancel the rental arrangement only to discover there would be a $2,500 cancellation fee.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Where have I heard that before?

Imagine a district manager that is so paranoid about the independent thought and opinions of others that she flies in a team of "bug-sniffers" from Arizona to sweep her office for any sort of listening devices. To assist these investigators, the manager sends a certain specialist to accompany them during the course of their inspection. Imagine the conversation that might have been had between the specialist and the visitors.

Imagine what a certain specialist might discover in watching the detection techniques of these contractors or the questions that may have been asked during their lengthy evaluation process. Imagine if one of the "bug-sniffers" actively informed a certain specialist as to methods that could be used to eavesdrop without being detected. Imagine if these "bug-sniffers" mentioned where equipment might be obtained to make the art of eavesdropping more successful and detection virtually impossible. Imagine the many advances that have been made in the realm of professional snooping.

Imagine if the employee that had all of this information in his head was the same person that tracked all of the keys in the ESC. Imagine if this employee was able to freely enter and exit the ESC without detection. Imagine the information that might be heard or recorded by someone equipped in such a manner.

Now, imagine if everything you just imagined wasn't imaginary?

Diminishing public education by consensus.

I don't know that you want to get some people started on what is being done to American schools at the moment.

Many of us see this as a large fight between people who know what they are doing and another group who THINKS they know what they are doing.

On the one hand we have the Gardner multiple-intelligences group which argues for multiple approaches to learning (and teaching) with a varitety of learning experiences available (expensive) and on the other hand, you have those in political power who say that we need to choose ONE way to do things and have backed up their viewpoint with NCLB, defining "success" and "failure" in a very narrow and unrealistic manner, adding a wad of money that is going to private industry for teaching "scientificly proven" methods (which means that schools have to buy a whole slug of new books) with money also going to testing companies (who, oddly enough, are subsidiaries of the publishing companies) to test the "learning" that is going on (cheap).

Educational tasks in the classroom are being pared to the lowest common denominator: all teachers at the same grade and subject area are to teach the same lesson. "Rigorous" curriculum is being eliminated because "consensus" has to be reached, and who wants to work hard? I was even told by one administrator that the goal of these reforms is to have a 3 ring binder in each classroom that will outline each day's lesson so simply that "anybody could come in and teach." "Anybody?" Do we want to turn our children over to "anybody?"

There are schools that are "in trouble" certainly, but the school is not the CAUSE of the trouble, but only a reflection of it and is the last hope to avoid it. The problems that walk through the school house door are generally not the fault of the school; when a school is "failing" it is merely reflecting the "failure" of the segment of society that it is serving. It is not the fault of the teacher that Jane's mother has to work three jobs to pay the rent and get food on the table, doesn't speak English very well, and is not be able to help Jane with her homework or take her to the zoo or a museum or a folklife festival or some other enriching experience. It is not the school's fault that Jack has to spend the weekends away from his house and can't get his homework done because his parents are selling drugs there Friday through Sunday. In an affluent suburban school, if Jimmie has been given everything that his heart has desired and he doesn't see the point of doing any school work and would rather disrupt the class in order to get the attention he is not getting at home, that is not the fault of the school, either.

We take in whatever problems walk through our doors. Yes, learning sometimes suffers while we are dealing with those problems, but if we had public support and resources appropriate to the task, we could be doing better.

As long as we are fighting over how to slice up a 12" pie, we're still only going to be slicing up a 12" pie and not solving the underlaying problems.

Contributed by Richard Reuther