Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Explosive growth just south of the border.

The growing number of young families in the city's North End is raising concerns about the capacity of the elementary schools there, with hundreds of families on waiting lists this year for their favored schools.

Jennifer Smead said she was stunned to find out the Seattle School District had assigned her daughter to kindergarten at a school she did not ask for, in a neighborhood she did not know, in a building at least four miles away.

"I kind of was in this disbelief," said Smead, who lives within walking distance of Bryant Elementary School — the school she wanted most.

The district saw a spike in enrollment this year, with 11,116 applications, including new students and transfers, up from 10,880 last year. But there was a downside: In a system where parents rank schools in order of preference, fewer got their first or second choice. In the northeast part of the city, the problem is particularly acute. Elementary-school enrollment has increased by 229 students in the past five years, with Bryant Elementary emerging as the hands-on favorite. This year, 82 families are on the waiting list.

Some have been assigned to John Rogers Elementary School, at the opposite end of their neighborhood cluster — district-defined boundaries for assigning students to schools. At Bryant Elementary on Thursday, about 100 parents gathered to discuss their overall concerns with district officials — everything from outdated boundaries to long bus rides.

"We have a system that's failing, and we know that it's failing," School Board member Harium Martin-Morris said after the meeting.

The School Board is revamping the way it assigns students to schools and expects to have a new plan in place in fall 2010. Under an outline the board passed in June, families would still be able to choose a school, but the district would guarantee each student a seat in a school near his or her home.

District leaders say the new plan would be more predictable and consistent than the current system. Now, students and their families submit a list of preferences, and a series of rules determines where students are assigned.

But the district can do nothing to change demographics. And a new study projects about 600 additional elementary-age students in the North End by 2012.

"I think this is a crisis, and I think it's not going to go away," said Erin Gustafson, whose daughter starts at Bryant Elementary next year. "People who want to send their kids to public school in Seattle are going to keep moving into this neighborhood."

In the South End, declining enrollment has forced several schools to close. But Beacon Hill Elementary, where a dual-language immersion program begins this fall, has a waiting list — 48 students — for the first time in years. Graham Hill and Kimball elementary schools also had waiting lists in the fall.

Still, the longest kindergarten waiting lists were in the North End, from 50 families at Salmon Bay K-8 to 93 at TOPS K-8.

School Board member Michael DeBell said the trend is troubling because there's just not enough room on that end of town. The district shut down a slew of schools there starting in the 1970s. Now it has to consider other options.

"I think the situation at Bryant is the leading edge of the district having to grapple with this," DeBell said. The district has already created four additional kindergarten classes, at View Ridge, Wedgwood, Laurelhurst and Rogers, to meet the demand in the northeast for next year. And at Thursday's meeting, officials promised to create another class, the location of which to be announced next week.

Cara Solomon

Empowered by comments from a silent minority.

After reading your blog and comments for many months, I am inspired to finally respond. With this entry today, you are once again misleading blog readers with your fabricated ideas about what "might be happening” at the district. [I watched it happen, asked for evidence from the District to the contrary and received nothing.]

You are suffering from sour grapes when it comes to your former position at the district and the saintly ways you went about your job functions. But you seem to only want to point out things that are untrue at many levels. [With all due respect, inserting a few examples here would be helpful.]

No doubt you have a following with your blog, but people are like sheep and believe most anything in writing. [The same is frequently said about the literary offerings of the District.]

How come people get all fired up about the negative but are so passive about the positive? Mark, you could find something wrong with the actions of the late Mother Teresa in your blog and construe the facts so that others have the same negative opinion if it served your purpose. [Posting a photograph of Mother Teresa along with one of Nick's paycheck letters was probably unfair to her.]

Good people abound at the district but it seems so easy for you and others to point a finger at a person or group and tell outright lies about things about which you can only speculate. [Again, the blog offers many examples, inserting even one example that strengthens your argument would help make your point.]

Many people I have spoken with over the months have simply stopped reading the blog because it is such a downer. [My numbers suggest otherwise.] Although you ask for positive feedback about the district, the only thing anyone wants to belabor is negative aspects. [I am not deleting positive comments, in fact, I am even posting them as full-blown entries.] Those attacked in the blog have done things in their life they can be proud about just like you and me. They have worked hard, helped the community, volunteered their time, played with their kids, and so on. [Examples would strengthen your argument.] It is easier to demonize people than to think they are just like you and me. [Perhaps we are demons, too.] They have hopes and dreams. [Hope to get their hands on more public money and dream of not getting caught.] They cry when they are hurt; red blood pumps through their veins and they put their pants on one leg at a time just like you and me.

The only thing your blog and the comments of your readers show is that you and your readers/supporters need to judge others. [The lack of effective assessment will permit unacceptable behavior to continue.]

But of course, it's all a matter of interpretation. I only read the blog to gain insight on how people interpret different situations. It saddens me that no one has spoken up specifically about all the good people and the good work being done. [Again, and I am begging now, an example would be helpful to make your point. We want to believe. Give us a morsel, please.]

"All that you are against weakens you; all that you are for empowers you." [I am not up against much, so thank you for the inspirational thought for the day.]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another reason to vote "NO" on the Tech Levy.

Several months ago, the blog requested any and all information related to the final round of Capital Partnerships. We were provided, as I suspected, a summary of the last round of projects - which were not intended to be the final round. There was $150,000.00 of matchable funds left on the table as of June 2007. These funds would have resulted in $300,000.00 in Capital Partnership project value, but alas, the money was swept under the rug.

The justification for this must be related to a sense of reasonable overhead for the Capital Projects Office, but alas, the projects were managed by Property Management and Athletics - not Capital Projects. When the last round (now final round) of projects were handed off to CPO to monitor, they swept more than $300,000.00 of project value under their administrative rug. Is that right? No, it isn't.

The public passed the last Tech Levy with the understanding that one million dollars would be utilized to enhance our schools through community partnerships. The money was provided and $850,000.00 was directed to projects while $150,000.00 vaporized. In my world, that constitutes a lie. A big fat lie. The 2008 Tech Levy earmarks an additional one million dollars, but a substantial percentage will likely never make it out of the District's accounts - thereby penalizing the public with a doubling effect.

Until June 2007, Capital Partnerships used to be managed by Property Management. This created a situation where the District absorbed the cost of managing projects in return for a huge infusion of public funds. Under the current project management model, CPO will manage the projects and take a cut of the remaining funds for the inconvenience.

We should save these parasites the headache of watching projects flourish and vote "NO" on the 2008 Tech Levy.

Here is the latest scam. Don't be duped by the Supe.

In Capital Facilities, these funds will allow the District to better support district-wide safety and emergency preparedness, district-wide energy efficiency improvements, system upgrades and asset protection, and outdoor facilities/partnerships.

Mentioning "safety", "emergency preparedness", "efficiency", "protection" and "upgrades" is just a feeble attempt to appeal to our community's sensitivities. As one contributor mentioned earlier, these improvements should result in a direct reduction in actual expenditures and therefore pay for themselves. Why ask the public for an infusion of capital funds to subsidize the general fund? Utility bills, losses from theft and staff training are all general fund expenses.

The replacement levy also continues our longstanding practice of the Capital Partnership Program. This is where schools, community groups, and organizations can submit applications to receive matching funds. This practice has resulted in the completion of many projects, including outdoor playground equipment and field work. $1 million is again included in the replacement levy to be available for matching funds and another $500,000 is designated to be part of necessary improvements to the former Woodway High School fields project being pursued cooperatively and jointly with several community organizations.

Scam. Plain and simple. Now that project management has moved away from general fund staff and landed in a capital funded department, expect to pay 15% or more for management services. Of course, this 15% has twice the impact in reducing the total value of projects by 30% since it takes 15% of the funds off the table and out of reach of matchable dollars from the community.

Salt in the wound: Most of the playground projects are totally coordinated and installed by parents and volunteers. Having managed most of the District's past partnership projects, I can readily profess that parents have always stepped up and carried a lot of the weight - from unloading trucks and site preparation to full installation and final completion.

Editorial: Remember that the "engineered playchip" option is not the District standard and therefore would be an unnecessary expense. When your quantities run low, your enclosures will be topped off by the much cheaper, non-engineered playchips.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Blind allegiance is draining public money and support.

Marla hired herself into a position of control as Executive Director of Business Services from her previous position in Human Resources. Since that move she has had one of the highest turnovers of any department. She oversaw a staff member who may have embezzled as much as 3/4 of a million dollars. She disappeared for several months claiming some mysterious ailment while collecting leave pay, only returning when she felt her position was being threatened.

She hired an unqualified and complete incompetent to "supervise". She hired a payroll manager who saw her salary increase $40,000.00 a year with continually reducing work hours. She lost one of the best enrollment predictors in the State. She lost a superior property manager and replaced him with a mannequin. She lost perhaps up to 5 million dollars on bad real estate transactions. She floated District funds to a friend using pianos as a front to help him avoid bankruptcy. She is so incredibly poor at personnel relations she must be now seen as the sole inspiration for this blog, and the bulk of comments relate to her and many of her poor decisions.

The department supervisor now works 4-6 hours a week and (we are told) is only collecting half of his $100,000.00 per year salary. We don't know whether the latter portion of this statement is true, though. Her payroll supervisor works half days and collects almost as much salary. Her property manager collects even more but acts as though he's retired.

Can anyone intelligently argue even remotely convincingly that Marla's tenure with the District has been a success? Would anyone owning a business continue to keep this person on the payroll? At the most recent School Board meeting the Board passed to indemnify both Marla and Brian. This is probably only a public statement being made, again in response to the work done by Mark and this blog, that the Board is willing to sacrifice taxpayer money in their firm belief that both of these people are completely honest and competent.

I believe that if your are an administrator in the District it is assumed and inferred that you are protected legally from civil lawsuit by the District. If you are a prof tech or office personnel staff member you are completely on your own, thereby no really being an important member or representative of the District. It makes little sense that when we compensate these people so much to begin with that they are also guaranteed legal protection at taxpayer expense. What the Board should be doing is distancing themselves from both of these huge liabilities and investigating all allegations. Blind allegiance due to Marla's imposing will, at least in a logical world, cost them all their positions.

Editor: Thank you to another anonymous contributor.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Where are all the children?

About 250 fewer students will attend Edmonds School District schools next fall, which could cost the district about $1.25 million. This past school year, the district was down almost 400 students.

No one knows exactly why enrollment is dropping, but housing prices, changing demographics and online education could be factors.

"Families stay on and we're not having new, young families replace them," said Dale Cote, principal of Meadowdale High School.

The high school is expected to lose about 70 students next year.

Even many teachers can't afford to live near Meadowdale. "We have teachers that commute from Snohomish and Lake Stevens because it's where they can afford," Cote said.

Debbie Jakala, communications director for the district, lives in Mountlake Terrace. There used to be about 25 kids with their big wheels in the neighborhood, and now there's only five children, with one headed off to college, she said.

About 40 years ago, the district had the opposite problem: a boom of families moving in. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the district built several elementary schools to handle the boom. At one point, there were about 30,000 students in the district, Jakala said. The district expects just over 20,000 for next year.

Changing social customs might also contribute to the loss, Jakala said. Many people are waiting until they are in their 30s or even early 40s to have children, rather than starting families in their early 20s as in earlier eras.

As for students leaving to other districts, the amount of students who leave is balanced by the number of students coming in, Jakala said. The number for both is roughly about 600, she said.

Some students also are lost to the growing world of online education.

The Edmonds School District surveyed families in 2007 and found more than 40 students who said they were planning to enroll in an online school in fall 2007.

As of November 2007, the district had 20,352 students, down from 20,725 in 2006-07.

Next fall, it estimates it will have just over 20,000 students.

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Sarah Koenig
Enterprise reporter

Editorial: Now who is going to clean up all of these dead canaries?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Last year the State Auditor released a report that didn't even scratch the surface of unethical behavior at the Edmonds School District. In part, the evidence didn't make it through all of their various agents and offices in time to be fully incorporated into a final report. This year is different.

The State Auditor's office has full knowledge of everything promulgated by the blog. Entries were forwarded to the State Auditor and the State Auditor has actively engaged in conversations with blog staff on a wide range of topics. There is no reason to conclude that the State Auditor is not aware of what is going on. The question is, will they do anything about it?

If the State Auditor's response is favorable for District leadership and a determination is made that nothing improper has happened, then clearly the State Auditor has done their homework and studied the potential impact of delivering such news. They have decided that the potential damage caused to a community in having to root out criminal conduct outweighs the conduct itself. Such a conclusion would be alarming. It would be a state agency determining what is best for local government.

If the State Auditor's report is favorable for the taxpayer, the Board will have to act or be replaced. No one wants a spineless board of bobbleheads actively endorsing anything requested by pilfering staff. School boards should actually deliberate and never accept everything at face value.

In the coming weeks, the State Auditor's report will be released. It will be interesting to see how they view facts. In light of the recent mess with the Port of Seattle, I don't envision a scenario that allows for petty theft to go unnoticed. Petty criminals hone their talent and eventually bilk the public out of fortunes in public funds. Piano Scams lead to grossly-inflated purchases for contaminated property.

Fortunately, through the beauty of IP addresses, blog staff can actively demonstrate when the State Auditor's Office accessed the blog, what entries they read, how long they spent reading those entries and when they left the blog site. The blog's ducks are in a row. The question is whether the State Auditor's Office will start shooting the ducks we've kindly lined up for them.

Why does the district need more money?

I am now really concerned when I read Carrie McAfee's letter of April 11, 2008, indicating that the new Lynnwood High School needs the funding that removing the Lynnwood Athletic Fields would bring. ("Fields will be moved to new site," Enterprise)

What happened to the $140 million that we approved February 2006 for the new school? I support schools, but I now believe that we are not getting good information about their funding.

If the Edmonds School District needs additional schools, why not inform the voters and let us vote. We have always supported schools! Now it is even easier, requiring only a 50 percent vote!

Again, does the district need more than $140 million for a high school? It seems to be an awful lot of money!

K Guedea

Editorial: There are a lot of people in "Bothell" commenting about the Edmonds School District. This unincorporated portion of Snohomish County appears to be a hotbed of activism. Bravo. At least some people are paying attention.

Fecal-flicking hippos piddling away a fortune.

It isn't always easy to challenge questionable business practices. Whether those practices include fraud, favoritism or intimidation, it isn't convenient to conduct a battle just outside your cubicle. The daily grind of trying to do the best job you can - while constantly looking over your shoulder for that inevitable attack. It is difficult, I know.

For more than six years, I worked inside of the ESC and attended meetings with people that should never have been allowed to work in the public sector. Their motivation has always been questionable and their handling of public funds has more in common with the fecal flicking of hippos than with anything you might learn in an executive MPA program. Their management style has more in common with Santa Claus than with Bill Gates. Dispensing free presents to people deemed "nice" by Santa's unchallenged standard rather than actively seeking out the best minds in the industry to supplement and guide your organization. The time has come to actively inquire as to why things are the way they have been.

The District's recent list of proposed cuts doesn't even come close to the real reductions that must happen. While it is absolutely true that student enrollment has been falling since 2001, management has been getting fat in the middle. Again, it warrants mentioning that the Custodial Manager should be able to communicate directly to the Assistant Superintendent. The same would be true of the Maintenance Manager. In fact, I would be willing to bet that more and more tasks, that should be handled by the Director of Facilities Operations, are finding their way to these two managers. That leaves $104,000.00 a year being "piddled" away for no good reason. Yes, I used the word "piddled".

The Rotarian's bride is also coasting. With the huge decrease in development in Snohomish County, there is a huge decrease in the number of Requests for Review from the County. Fewer requests means fewer trips into the field to meet with developers and - given the caliber of representation - that is a windfall to our District's fragile reputation. Added to this is the practice of jobbing out $900.00 reconfigurations to contractors that charge $11,000.00. During a budget crisis, when your job might be on the chopping block, it's a hard bill to swallow. One thing is certain, however, the Rotarian's bride would never expose a corrupt Rotarian unwavering in her dedication to plunder public funds for the enrichment of friends.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

State to cover schools' tainted ground.

WENATCHEE — The state Department of Ecology plans to lay down clean dirt or concrete at four schools in north-central Washington this summer to protect children from old orchard chemicals in the ground.

A thick layer of dirt will be laid down at Orchard Middle School, Sunnyslope Elementary and Peshastin-Dryden Elementary, and concrete will be used at Lee Elementary to cover soil contaminated with unsafe levels of lead and arsenic.

After the work is finished, the state will have just one schoolyard left to treat in north-central Washington before completing a cleanup project that began in 2001.

The state tested soils at all schools in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan and Yakima counties in 2002 for levels of arsenic and lead, which were sprayed on apple orchards in the 1940s to fight codling moths. Many schools in the region are built on old orchard sites.

Fourteen schools in Wenatchee, Orondo, Chelan, Manson, Bridgeport, Brewster and Omak were found to have unsafe levels of the chemicals in the soils.

Contaminated school grounds in Yakima County will be tackled next.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A little more Human and a little less Resource, please.

In September 2005, Seattle Public Schools placed longtime Broadview-Thomson Elementary School teacher Ronald Langston on paid administrative leave.

Within two weeks, a district investigation found that Langston had caught a fourth-grader eating a cookie in class, grabbed him by the collar, dragged him to a trash can and forced him to spit it out. An investigator concluded that Langston had had "inappropriate physical contact" with a student. Langston, who confirms that the incident occurred but disagrees with the characterization of it, eventually was fired last November, but not before the district paid him $52,000 plus full district benefits for 374 days of leave.

Langston's pay contributed to the nearly $2 million Seattle Public Schools spent in the past five years on administrative leaves for teachers, principals and other staff members.

Administrative leave is different from medical or family leave and is specifically for investigation of misconduct. Such leave is supposed to last only as long as the investigation that sparked it, but the district has no official procedures or expectations about how long investigations should take.

Records obtained by The Seattle Times show many cases in which investigations have stalled and proceedings have languished. The district acknowledges struggling with staff turnover and confusion over which cases should be a priority.

As of February, when the district released records to The Times, 13 employees were on administrative leave. One of them, former John Marshall Alternative School principal Joseph Drake, last week agreed to resign from the district in August in exchange for two years' pay.

Drake, 66, was placed on paid administrative leave in August after a consultant's report blamed poor leadership for problems at the school, which is closing at the end of this school year.
In the past five years, the length of time employees spend on administrative leave has grown. In 2003, most leaves lasted less than 100 days. The longest was for an elementary-school teacher who was paid for 201 days off work before leaving her job for good.

In 2006, five teachers spent more than 300 days on leave. One teacher resolved his case in 2006 after being on paid leave for 596 days — the equivalent of three school years.

3 directors in 4 years
The district's human-resources department has had three permanent directors in the past four years and has been without a full-time director since February.

The discipline process is "one area of particular concern," said Gary Ikeda, district lead counsel, who oversees the department. "It's obvious to me that cases have languished ... much longer than is acceptable."

The district has no universal tracking system, he said, and doesn't always prioritize cases where employees are on paid leave. One of his goals is to establish expected time periods for resolving discipline cases.

Union representatives believe the district has overused paid administrative leave, isolating employees and making it harder to investigate what happened.

"In many cases, the length of time it's taken the district to do the investigation is just way out of line," said Steve Pulkkinen, executive director of the Seattle Education Association, which represents the district's 6,000 teachers.

In one case in September, a fifth-grader at a South Seattle school told friends at a slumber party that she was uncomfortable with the way one of her teachers had touched her shoulders. The girl's mother approached the teacher, who e-mailed the principal about it. The teacher was put on leave the next day.

It took the district five weeks to hire an investigator. It took the investigator less than a week to interview students and determine that the teacher had not done anything inappropriate. The teacher was cleared and put back on the job after 11 weeks off.

In several cases reviewed by the Times, district officials had only partial files about employees' leaves. In three cases, district officials couldn't locate any documents that showed why employees spent more than 180 days on paid administrative leave.

A leave of 596 days
Ikeda said cases where employees are on paid leave should be the human-resources department's top priority. It hasn't always happened that way.

The district put a John Marshall Alternative School teacher on leave in March 2006 after colleagues said he verbally harassed and physically restrained students, grabbing them and pushing them in and out of classrooms. An investigator collected statements from students and staff within a couple of weeks.

But then, district documents show, nothing happened for more than a year. By the time work resumed on the teacher's file, district officials recommended he be allowed to resign. In all, the teacher spent 596 days on leave before he resigned in November 2007. It was the longest administrative leave in the district in the past five years — and perhaps ever.

"That was a case, it should never have taken that long," said Pulkkinen, the union director. "We would ask HR regularly, 'What are you doing?' and 'When are you going to made a decision?' and 'Why aren't you acting on this stuff?' It was during one of their upheavals of who was in charge, and he [the teacher] just kept getting lost. Frankly, he reached a point where he was drawing a paycheck and getting on with life."

Backlog of cases
Handling of administrative leaves can vary from district to district.

Chuck Christensen has been human-resources director for Federal Way Public Schools for eight years. He said the longest paid administrative leave he could remember lasted perhaps three months. "I start getting uncomfortable when a leave lasts longer than a month," he said, but his district — about half the size of Seattle's — doesn't have a specific policy to govern how long a leave should last.

Some cases, said Ikeda, the Seattle district's lead counsel, are so complex that they simply take longer to resolve. The district has been working for the past six months to address the backlog of employees on paid leave, he said.

"For a school district of this size, with 8,000 employees, we did not have an adequate system to process the number of cases in a more timely fashion," Ikeda said.

Langston said that during his leave, he called the district every week to ask how much longer he would be away from the classroom. The human-resources department never had an answer for him.

"They'd always say, 'You're getting paid,' and I could not argue with them, because they're right. I'm getting paid," he said.

To pass the time, he played a lot of chess, he said.

It wasn't the first time he had been in trouble. He'd been on paid leave for four months in 2004 after two of his kindergarten students left the school and crossed the street during his class. The case was resolved when Langston was given five days without pay.

In the year before his leave from Broadview-Thomson, he had been reprimanded for insubordination, bullying behavior, coming to work late and leaving early.
Langston said the district never did give him an estimate of how long he'd be spending on paid leave.

"That's like, 'How long are you gonna have those chicken pox?' " he said. "They don't know."

Emily Heffter

Monday, April 21, 2008

District is unevolved due to missing Link.

I read, with interest, the article in The Everett Herald about Jan Link, retired Edmonds School District Principal, who has created a small student tutoring business, which has included an after-school tutoring program at a Lynnwood apartment complex, which is funded by a grant.

Ms. Link participates with the tutoring 2 days a week according to the article. What a wonderful opportunity for kids, especially those living in low income service areas.

My point: There are educators out there who CARE about kids' learning, both in the classroom and beyond. Kudos to Jan Link for her efforts.

Julie DeNoma
Edmonds, WA

Editor: Thank you for pointing out this great piece of news. Sometimes we can get so distracted by all of the bad news - and there is a lot of it - that we might miss a shining example of greatness.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Join Rotary and be immune from budget cuts.

When you operate a small time blog with limited resources and limited staff, people frequently throw you a bone. Here is a bone of significance.

A real estate agent in Lynnwood encountered me at a clock hour seminar. He was aware that I had left the Edmonds School District, not because some sort of official announcement went out, but because he saw my former job posted on the District's website. What's more surprising is that he applied for the position. I told him that it was not possible that he applied because I had copies of both applications at home. I told him that he probably had the wrong fax number. He was absolutely sure that he applied and he described the inside of the ESC and the person with whom he left the application.

I smiled and went back into the conference room. Perhaps his application went into the substitute custodian pile. Accidents happen after all.

Then I received a tip from the blog's tip line. Someone, that prefers to remain anonymous, reports that the person who was eventually hired to become the new Planning and Property Management Specialist is married to a member of Rotary Daybreakers. No big deal there, except the president of Rotary Daybreakers at the time was Marla Miller, Assistant Superintendent of the Edmonds School District.

In reviewing the two applications, I quickly noticed that the person hired as the Planning and Property Management Specialist came in second out of two rather sad and woefully under-qualified candidates. The real estate agent was not the other applicant.

It seems surprising that during a time in the real estate market when sales are down and agents are scrambling to make a living, that a position, specifically-tailored for someone with real estate experience, didn't attract more applications. Or did it?

Given the overwhelming evidence of misconduct and preferential treatment in hiring practices at the District, I am starting to believe that applications were likely diverted to give the Rotarian's wife a distinct advantage.

Added to this is the fact that during a period of budget cuts, the Planning and Property Management Clericalist (a position single-handedly downgraded by the occupant) is not even under consideration for adjustment or elimination. It also seems unfortunate that clerical staff in Maintenance will be eliminated to accommodate a budget crisis while an overpaid clerical position is left untouched.

What is also clear, from exchanges on the blog, is the inability of this new clericalist to perform any of the duties assigned to the position. The person having to pick up most of the workload left unattended is the Director of Facilities Operations and others in the department. This constitutes clear and irrefutable proof that the position has yet to be effectively filled. What better argument is there for eliminating the position?

Sadly, what makes the Clericalist immune from the budget axe is her connectivity to Rotary Daybreakers. I suspect if you assemble the entire Facilities Operations department in a single room, you wouldn't get a single argument for saving this drain on public funds.

For the clerical staff in Maintenance facing unemployment - I recommend that you immediately contact Rotary Daybreakers in Edmonds and become a member. This would be the best way to ensure that your deeply needed services will continue without interuption. Contact the blog and I will even pay your dues for the year, that is, if Marla lets you in.

Blog welcomes Seattle Northwest Securities

The blog is attracting more and more readers these days. This relatively new arrival, Seattle Northwest Securities, is the agency that sells bonds for the Edmonds School District. They have also been very involved in the process of evaluating, selecting and working with the new developers for the current Lynnwood High School. It is Seattle Northwest Securities that will coordinate the funding based upon anticipated revenue from groundleasing the Lynnwood Athletic Complex and adjoining high school.

What is rather interesting is that everything I am reading seems to suggest that the matter has not yet been resolved. What if this hearing in June prevents the Lynnwood Athletic Complex from being eliminated? That might have an impact upon anticipated revenues. I can see why Seattle Northwest Securities might be interested in the blog.

Here is a little bit of free advertising for Seattle Northwest Securities. If you have a public resource you would like to strip away from your community, give them a call.

SNW is an innovator in the world of school finance, both public and private K-12 and higher education. We have created plans to help districts reduce the cost of housing for teachers, implemented plans to reduce districts' pension costs, and shown how districts and developers can work together to finance new classroom space.

Our work with schools is based on the tools we’ve created to help districts borrow funds for capital projects while easing and controlling the impacts on taxpayers. We help districts with long-range tax rate planning, bond ratings, applications for state bond guarantees, and annual reviews of levies for bond payments. We analyze refinancing options, meet districts' financing objectives through innovative structuring, and design and implement borrowings that, in certain situations, do not require voter approval. Financing for public institutions is heavily regulated by state law and influenced by the form and amount of support provided by state government. Private institution financing, on the other hand, is more akin to private finance - a function of financial performance and resources. Elements commonly evaluated for both types of institutions include demand (applications and selectivity), enrollment profile (SAT scores and return rates), comparative tuition and fees, and breadth of programs. SNW has the technical expertise necessary to manage financing for both public and private colleges and universities.

Institutions of higher education come to SNW for our expertise regarding certain developments in higher education finance. The first is stand-alone project financing (evaluated on a "project" basis), which may cause the institution to incur higher borrowing costs but can offer the benefits of more rapid completion and lower construction costs. The second development is the consolidation of an institution’s debt under a "global" general obligation pledge of all legally available funds.

Each state's laws differ as they apply to higher education financing choices and powers. SNW's in-depth experience throughout the Northwest and our unique qualifications give us the ability to assist public and private higher education institutions with all of their financing needs.

The last gasps of someone trying to delay the end.

In this modern age of technology and the resulting detachment from the real meaning of the Human Condition, we have to be receptive to karma's subtle attempts to communicate with us. There are cues everywhere. We just need to know where to look and, more importantly, know how to see them when they are as plain as our own noses.

The mismanagement at the District cannot continue forever. Those that engage in questionable behavior will start to experience the negative effects of their misdeeds. Whether they see these consequences immediately has more to do with their connectivity to their human self than any university degree or professional endorsement they may have acquired along the way. Bad news follows bad people. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

There is a rather large reaction coming. Brace yourself.

If you are one of these individuals that have been mismanaging public funds - either directly by shoveling business to friends, or indirectly by allowing it to happen while under your "leadership" - the time for corrective force is upon us.

Also refreshing to remember is that great people cannot be kicked around forever. The great people that work for the District will see the sun again. Your careers are like the weather in the Puget Sound. A lot of gray skies. A lot of rainy weather. But the sun is coming. Be strong. Buy sun screen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lights out in School Libraries

Two-thirds of school libraries in the City of Edmonds have been advised to plan programs that operate only half time next year.

The sites include Edmonds, Sherwood, Westgate and Woodway. These libraries would be closed half the time.

Reducing library staffing in schools sends the wrong message about the importance of reading and research, as well as the power of information.

What can we expect of WASL test scores under such conditions? How can we expect the next generation to be readers?

The April 22 school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. will be the next chance for the public to comment on the importance of school libraries in Edmonds. Wearing red is encouraged.

Full-time libraries and librarians are essential for our children’s success.
Go to for more information.

Paul Borchert
Concerned Edmonds parent

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A page from the District's playbook.

April 15, 2008

Dear Colleagues:

As you may be aware, the district is working through the most recent round of under-funded legislative actions and developing a plan to address the reductions necessary for next year’s operational budget.

Playbook: Remind people that they already know the bad news. Assign full responsibility for the bad news to someone else. Tell them that the remedy is coming and that it involves deliberation - even if your solution doesn't.

We value all positions, programs, and services for students; thus, it is a most difficult process to try and determine what areas to reduce and to what extent.

Playbook: Tell people what you think they want to hear. Tell them that you share a similar set of priorities. Don't let people know it brings you pleasure to slash programs and positions to accommodate your vision.

We hope to have a more refined plan ready to share with everyone on or about April 23rd.

Playbook: Once you have devised a way to preserve your vision and establish a legacy at taxpayer expense, acquire enough wool to bury it from public view. When you have worked all of the bugs out, parade your pile of wool through a public process where people can comment about the color and texture of said wool.

We will send that out via e-mail. Even that plan will not be final and it will get more review.

Playbook: In case someone happens to see under a small piece of the wool and catches a glimpse of what you are doing to their school district, reassure staff and the community that everything is a "work in progress" and that it can only be perfected by incorporating community suggestions.

Then in May, the concepts will be presented and discussed in more depth at some open public meetings similar to last year’s process, with a sincere opportunity for input.

Playbook: Hint at something like an education summit. Try to make the community believe that you are seeking consensus. Don't let them catch on that you are just seeking warm, but unengaged bodies in the room. Remember that you need to have lots of bodies to point at when challenged about the way things fell apart.

Any interested persons in our schools or community are very welcome to attend those meetings; we will be sharing the dates once they are established.

Playbook: Suggest that anyone can show up. Remember, if you get enough people in the room the conflict will become their battle and you can step outside for a cigarette. District loyalists that believe every word you utter will show up in droves. The trick is to get enough "outsiders" in the room so they can become the target of budget strife.

These meetings will likely happen later in May when we have more information.

Playbook: The State Auditor's report should be out by May and we are fairly confident that, given what the State has done to our operating budget, they wouldn't have the audacity to point out our own financial blunders and waste.

Thank you again for your caring and competent service.

Playbook: Establish a reason for loyalists to attend your education summit. Flatter them into taking up arms to defend the monarch.

Your patience and understanding as we work collaboratively through this process are greatly appreciated.

Playbook: Use the word "collaborative" and "process" while expressing gratitude. This will give your readers the impression that you are not plundering public funds on your own. Process suggests a beginning, middle and end and, most importantly, that it evolved from something less organized into something that is preferred by every solvent organization in the region.


Blog welcomes Thompson and Delay to our forum

Our webmaster recently revealed that a new participant has joined our little community of readers. The law firm of Thompson and Delay appears to be looking for a case. Unfortunately, no one is drinking and driving here. We do have someone that occasionally drinks and blogs, but in this state, that is not yet illegal.

The entry of greatest interest appears to be this article
and I can see why. While I don't know the author, I would imagine the connectivity they display has rattled a nerve or two. Perhaps someone feels threatened, endangered or defamed by the opinions expressed in the entry. Perhaps the statement that certain people have "no brains" has been taken literally, as if someone actually peered through an ear hole or two.

They also appear to be interested in district salaries
. But then, who wouldn't be. With all of the cash being handed out to friends of management, it warrants an objective evaluation by a Seattle law firm.

Whatever the case, we welcome readers from all walks of life and warmly embrace the opportunity for a lively debate. After all, we are just trying to get to the bottom of these scandals and so far, we haven't hit bottom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

District's latest buzz word: Receivership

There’s been a new word introduced into the discussion of the District’s budget woes: Receivership. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it refers to when an outside entity is appointed to wind up the affairs of a business involving public interest (monies) or to manage it during reorganization. This term is used for public agencies since they technically cannot go bankrupt.

This term is not to be tossed about lightly, but it has been by the District to scare the public into thinking that some state appointed accountant is going to come in and run the schools. The Edmonds School District is currently involved in a law suit against the State of Washington alleging they inadequately fund schools. They, and other districts across the State, are arguing that they cannot manage to do the work they signed-up for without more money. As a result, they will have to cede the responsibility to the state and everything will go to hell in a hand basket.

I for one am not going to buy into these Chicken Little tactics.

Nick Brossoit has little to no credibility in this argument for the simple reason of how the District got into the current budget mess. They ignored their own planning document that predicted the decline in enrollment and shrinking state funding. But more importantly, their operation is top heavy in management and has over-inflated salaries for those at the very top and their favorites. They make dumb decisions in hiring yes-men who in turn make dumber business decisions, like paying a vendor $11,000 to reconfigure seven cubicles.

If Nick and the Board are such experts at finance and budgets, where are all the ground leases for the Maintenance and Transportation Center and the old ESC site? What about the overpayment for the New Administration site? Did the District really get a good outcome for the price? Just where are all those dollars that would finance the construction costs of the building? At least the state can guarantee the amount of money they will hand over for each enrolled student.

The sky isn’t falling. But it should fall on leadership at the District.

Claire Olsovsky

District shows no regard for the community.

The Moving of the Athletic Fields is bad public policy. The best way to expose it is through good research and documentation. The Save Our Fields Committee has done just that.

Rebuttal Evidence Points:
• The District’s relocation initiative has been a closed process without collaboration.

• The District is not legislatively empowered to be a sole Community Recreation Provider.

• The District has failed to clearly identify the Lynnwood Athletic Complex as a separate and independent Project.

• The District has expended funds inappropriately from the February 2006 Capital Bond Levy for a new Lynnwood High School by using monies for a community athletic complex.

• The District has selected a low density and isolated residential area to locate a large community athletic complex.

• The District has failed to provide an environmental impact statement related to the relocation of the Lynnwood Athletic Complex as required by “Manual 7 Policy”.

• The District has not submitted any agreements with the local parks community, (City of Lynnwood, Mill Creek, or Snohomish County) for operations and cost sharing of the new athletic fields.

• The District has failed to notify the surrounding residents of the impacts relating to the current heavy use of the athletic complex (estimated to be greater than 2000 non-school games per year).

• The District has failed to show how the current location, operation and use of the Lynnwood Athletic Complex would have equal or better provision in the new location.

• The District has failed to look at viable alternatives for the Regional Athletic Complex such as to continue to allow the use of the existing complex by the City of Lynnwood.

• The District has failed to provide adequate documentation in their application for conversion that meets the minimum requirements of the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). (Policies required for conversion)

• The new site will no longer allow the connection to the Interurban Trail System that extends from South Everett to the Snohomish-King County line.

• There is no demonstrated reconciliation of the contractual rights of the City of Lynnwood (nor Snohomish County) under the 1980, 1994, and the 1996 agreements. (exhibits 23, 71, 72, 73, and 74) The City contributed the $344,000 of matching funds in 1980, and an additional $150,000 in 1996. Snohomish County Contributed $211,000 in 1996. These agreements are in effect until 2019. They require the City of Lynnwood and Snohomish County’s approvals to vacate their rights and responsibilities.

• Relocation of Athletic complex is in conflict with Lynnwood’s “Healthy Community Initiative” as well as the “Vision, Mission and Core Values” for Parks. (exhibit 29).

• The ‘Conversion” is in conflict with the intent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965. Funds were intended to encourage the healthy activities of the citizens. The citizens of Lynnwood would “lose” in the conversion process. (See exhibit 23).

• City of Lynnwood Council is concerned over the proposal, see Seattle Times article by Lynn Thompson. (exhibit 36)

• The Snohomish County Planning staff was confused over the scope of the Project. They understood that the athletic fields were only for "interscholastic" uses. (exhibit 11).

• Relocation of the Lynnwood Athletic Complex was not discussed at the Conditional Use Plan (CUP) hearing on June 27, 2006. (exhibit 16).

If you want the entire 19 page WORD document - just email Mark Laurence.

Editorial: Thank you to another anonymous contributor.

Where's Raj Manhas when we need him?

Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas needs to seize control quickly or he'll find the School District run by City Hall.

Since taking over as superintendent 14 months ago, Manhas has managed by triage. He cut deeply into central administration to help erase a $34 million deficit left by former schools chief Joseph Olchefske. Later, Manhas shifted operating funds to the most critical needs to keep 100 schools and 47,000 students going. He managed to balance the budget two years in a row and give the school system a semblance of financial stability.

Manhas is now looking at a $12 million deficit next year and twice as much the following year. He appears out of rabbits to pull from a hat.

Enter Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Nickels spent last week growing increasingly uneasy as a parade of news stories portrayed a school system in deep financial trouble. When the specter of bankruptcy was raised, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Nickels made some phone calls to trusty community advisers and a brief while later, the idea of an education summit was born.

His interest makes sense. With revitalized neighborhoods and new downtown buildings standing as markers of his success, Nickels is not about to let an ailing school system threaten the city's economic health or his own legacy.

But Nickels cannot and should not rescue the district. That is the job of Manhas and the School Board. Negotiating territory will be touchy, particularly because there is no love lost between the mayor and the schools chief. Their relationship has been strained since Nickels reversed Seattle's longtime sense of benevolence toward schools and demanded strict accountability for the Families and Education Levy. Manhas believes in strong accountability also, but the two jousted over direction of the measure's $116.8 million.

It is telling that days after Nickels hatched his summit plan, he still hadn't picked up the phone to run it past Manhas.

Make no mistake, a summit is needed. It can do much to rally the city around the schools. It can provide a forum to address the needs of education. It can also be a mirror in which the community addresses the contradictory messages it sends.

Everyone proclaims to buy into the philosophy that every child can learn, yet most have remained silent as half of the city schools starve financially and academically. A summit would force us to align around a common vision and clear accountability.

But before we reserve a room and beg Starbucks for free coffee, let's agree on some basic concepts and rules for the agenda:

• Massive inefficiencies are devouring the district's resources. An example: Too many school buildings are serving a small and static population. Some will have to be shuttered to stop the hemorrhaging of two things vital to the district: money and public goodwill.

• The choice system is likely to change — hopefully, with the least-harmful impacts. But remember, even the most beloved program is merely a part of a greater whole.

• The Alliance for Education needs transformation. The district has a well-staffed, well-paid fund-raising arm, yet Manhas is having to cozy up to millionaires when he should be concentrating on running the schools.

• Watch the language. We've got Chicken Little in the district's finance office shouting "bankruptcy" every five minutes. This stunned even the implacable Gov. Gary Locke, who said he had never heard of a school district in this state going into receivership. The district is a publicly funded agency that cannot, technically, go bankrupt. Using inaccurate terms only confuses people.

• No gloating. King County Executive Ron Sims called Seattle Schools inefficient, wasteful and difficult to work with. He's correct on all counts. What's the county going to do about it? No fair complaining about your neighbor's paint job unless you stopped by with a brush and bucket.

• The School Board must adopt the financial concept of adding new academic initiatives and programs only if older ones are discarded first.

• Loosen the leash that tethers Manhas to the board. The superintendent is the board's sole employee, but he must be allowed to administer the district.

• Develop trust. Once bitten, everyone from the board to citizens is twice shy. But if we don't trust the people in place to make the right decisions, we ought to replace them with people we do trust. Part of the reason the city schools operate in such a haphazard manner is that every decision is second-guessed, revamped or exchanged for something else. Imagine a ship trying to push forward as four different captains turn their own wheel in varying directions. That is the picture of the Seattle Schools.

There is no doubt in my mind that the schools can emerge from this financial crisis. But they must downsize, raise more money and operate more efficiently.

Lynne K. Varner's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is Look for more of her thoughts on the STOP blog, our editorial online journal at

Monday, April 14, 2008

City of Lynnwood must retain Athletic Complex

Dear Mayor Gough,

In reading the latest traffic in the local newspapers, one would draw the conclusion that the Edmonds School District seeks to compel your city to absorb an area that you may not be inclined to incorporate. I thought the City had their own planners. What happened?

Planners for the City of Lynnwood should be looking at the potential loss of the Lynnwood Athletic Complex and making plans to retain the use of so great a resource. Think of all of the traffic pouring onto 184th. It is already difficult to navigate through the area during commercially-endorsed seasons of gift-giving. How much worse will it be with two massive retail developments dumping customers onto the same road?

The City Council is probably torn and mildly conflicted. Part of the Council seeks to protect recreational space and the other seeks to increase sales tax revenue from the new development across from the Alderwood Mall. Why not have your cake and eat it, too? As a City of great wisdom, with it's formative years guided by the likes of Mayors "Herk" Hrdlicka and Tina Roberts-Martinez, why not sharpen your pencils and craft a solution for everyone?

I think it would be a great idea to achieve a compromise. The Edmonds School District clearly believes they have no need for the property across from the Alderwood Mall. They seek to leverage the dirt to subsidize poorly-planned projects elsewhere in the District. If another public agency, like the City of Lynnwood, had a legitimate need for the Athletic Complex, why not take the federally-funded portion of the site through eminent domain? The District can ground lease the remaining portion to Cypress and still generate a bit of money for projects across the district.

The added benefit of such an approach would be the diversion of traffic to the north and the possibility of tying the two sites together with a pedestrian causeway. The Council would then be able to satisfy everyone at their table. Citizens seeking playfields would have what they want. City departments seeking more sales tax revenue would have what they want. The Federal government would even get what they originally spent a fortune to create in the first place.

Then you can choose to incorporate the area around the New Lynnwood High School on your own terms. Don't be bullied by the simple minds at the school district. The City of Lynnwood is far brighter than the rotten scoundrels and bobbleheads running the District at the moment.

I would personally contribute the first $5,000 to get the condemnation process started. No doubt, many others would quickly follow. You only get one chance to do this right. The right thing to do is to satisfy all impacted city residents and retain a regional asset.


Mark Zandberg
Resident of Edmonds

Head of CPC puts new athletic complex in backyard.

Speak out against removing ballfields
On Thursday, March 27, the Recreation and Conservation Office Board (RCOB) met in Olympia to discuss the elimination of the Lynnwood Athletic Fields across from Alderwood mall. This was a public hearing and it is scheduled to continue in June.

I testified for our citizens group, Save Our Fields, in opposition to the removal of the athletic fields. From some of the board's comments, I felt that our concerns were being heard.

We feel it is important for the users of the fields and the Lynnwood residents to be brought into the process. The city of Lynnwood has expended hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to make the Alderwood-Lynnwood Fields into one of the premier facilities in the state.

Our group encourages the community to stand up to those who would level the fields in favor of more commercial development.

Please contact your Lynnwood elected officials and let them know how you feel about the loss of recreation and open space in our community!

Mark Laurence
Chair for Save Our Fields

Fields will be moved to new site
I was concerned when I read a letter from Mark Laurence, April 4, 2008. ("Speak out against removing ballfields," Enterprise) He stated that the Lynnwood High School athletic fields would be lost to commercial development. I have been the 2006-2007 CPC (Citizens Planning Committee) Chairman for the Edmonds School District. Our job was to discuss and plan the development for the school district for the next 10 years. The "commercial development" is how we can afford to move the Lynnwood High School site to the North Road location. We have been in contact with the Lynnwood Parks Department as a team to move the current fields to the new North Road site. (Under construction right now.) Never were the intentions to dissolve the fields and have no space to play. The school district needs and wants those fields as much as anyone. We as the Citizens Planning Committee never wanted to lose those fields. If you have to fight about this, I wish you would understand that the [C]ity of Lynnwood needs to incorporate the North Road area to be able to spend money over here. That's the fight. The fields will go up for the Edmonds School District and be usable September 2009. There will be no lose [loss?] of recreation and open space. It will just be moved.

Carrie McAfee

Planning "for the next ten years" shouldn't involve a 99 year lease. In fact, the District's own planning horizons are six and twenty years in length. Did you even read the Capital Facilities Plan? Is this hodge-podge collection of parents called the "Citizens Planning Committee" suggesting that they have some way of knowing the procreative habits of our future taxpayers - even those that have yet to relocate to the Edmonds School District. Do you have any clue at all as to what student enrollment will look like in 20 years, let alone 50 and 75?

So the District is trying to compel the City of Lynnwood, and its taxpayers to incorporate an area they may have already evaluated, considered and rejected. How does a school district that fails to adequately plan for their own future incur time and energy planning the future needs of the City of Lynnwood? Who at the City of Lynnwood asked the District for help?

A playfield in Bothell is not the same as a playfield in the middle of Lynnwood. This isn't like a cookie in the kitchen is the same as a cookie in the dining room. There are a lot of Lynnwood residents that have incorporated the Lynnwood Athletic Complex into their daily exercise routine. Afterall, the Mall doesn't want people walking around the inside of their building without spending money.

Ms. McAfee is from Bothell and refers to the new high school property as "over here". It sounds like a conflict of interest to have the head of the Citizens Planning Committee involved in moving an athletic complex closer to her own home. It is no surprise that Ms. McAfee would want the District to incur an ungodly expense improving her own neighborhood. I bet she doesn't live right on North Road and won't be negatively impacted by all of the resulting traffic. I would also bet that she lives at least ten blocks away from the New Lynnwood High School. Close enough to make it easily accessible but far enough away to avoid traffic congestion.

And another thing, master planner, how is it that a school district is building a replacement for Lynnwood High School when the field issue hasn't even been resolved yet? What happens if the Federal government decides to prevent the transplantation of a resource they have supported for decades?

I suspect that part of the problem, with the direction the District is now heading, has a lot to do with the calibre of parental oversight. If committees are not competent enough to hold public officials accountable, why would we expect an outcome favorable to the public?

Editorial: Okay, I cheated. Carrie McAfee does live ten blocks north of the New Lynnwood High School just off North Road.

District must be fiscally responsible

Most taxpayers are ignorant as to the workings of their school district and how priorities are set for spending their tax dollars. Despite having a 2004 planning document that predicted the current decline in enrollment and decrease in state funding (the 2004-2009 Capital Facilities Plan), the Edmonds School District opted to give its administrative staff raises this year. Now they are faced with cutting an additional $4.1 million to the $4.5 million they cut earlier this year.

This is not surprising for a district that spent $2.5 million more for a piece of property than it's worth for their new administration building, has in the works a $100 million-plus high school for students that should be absorbed into existing schools, and pays its superintendent, Nick Brossoit, $202,758 a year. That's more than Gov. Christine Gregoire, who makes just $163,618 annually.

They do this along with a laundry list of other poor fiscal decisions because we let them. Until they can prove they can spend tax money like it was their own, get out and vote no on any school proposition or levy.

Defeat the Edmonds School District Technology Levy on May 20.

Claire Olsovsky

District seeks to reduce carbon footprint.

Edmonds School District No. 15
April 11, 2008


To: P-12 Administrators

From: Ken Limón


As we have been discussing over the last several weeks since the legislative session ended, we are projecting a $4.5 million budget reduction challenge. This is due to the combined effect of the state COLA and pension rates, mid-point compensation, enrollment decline, and other impacts. Unfortunately, the state budget picture is one that suggests we will be undergoing the need to reduce budgets for the future as well. In January Superintendent’s Staff recommended, and the School Board agreed, that we would NOT change the staffing ratios for basic education classroom teaching positions for next year. Superintendent’s Staff has been reviewing the General Fund budget for the past several weeks researching potential areas for reductions and creating a reduction list. This list has been reviewed with the P-12 administrative team and the Budget Advisory Council (BAC) for input and feedback. Ultimately, the superintendent must 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 31.

One of the major areas of rising costs over the last several years has been in student transportation. About 55 percent of our transportation costs are reimbursed by the state; the remainder is funded by our levy--about $3.4 million. In anticipation of the need to reduce transportation costs, in September the school board asked the Citizens Planning Committee to examine ways to create efficiencies in this department to reduce costs.

After several months of study CPC recommended a standardization of school start and end times. Combined with a plan to pair special education schools that are closer in proximity, the accumulated savings should be in excess of $204,000 for 2008-09. The simple fact is that this new system will allow us to use fewer busses and therefore achieve savings. Below are the recommended times from the CPC proposal. For Special Education students in the paired elementary schools, the times are slightly different. The school board has approved this change.

Standardized Bell Schedule for 2008-09

High School
7:00am - 1:50pm
(Exception of Edmonds/Woodway H.S.)

Middle School
8:00am - 2:30pm

Elementary Schools
8:00am - 2:30pm
8:40am - 3:10pm
9:20am - 3:50pm

Over the years schools have been able to modify their start and end times slightly to better meet their needs and those of their families, but next year we will have five common times for our schools. This is not the only change to save transportation costs; we are in the process of reducing costs further in this department to a total of at least $500,000.

I know that it is sometimes difficult to support a change in which there was little input, but until we are able to get State funding our students, teachers, and families deserve, we will be in the process of reducing and adjusting services.

Please feel free to share this information with your staff.

Editorial: Your staff reads the blog.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.

If the City of Lynnwood was asked to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to a site located in Bothell, Mill Creek or unincorporated Snohomish County, would the City do it? The answer must be a resounding no. So why would the Edmonds School District unilaterally decide to uproot an established athletic complex and transplant it miles away, with the expectation that the City of Lynnwood would be interested in maintaining the site? Being located on the fringe of an area that might, one day be incorporated by the City of Lynnwood does nothing for the City’s taxpaying public. The site will draw far more people from Bothell and Mill Creek and become a resource for their community – but at no direct expense to them [aside from traffic impacts].

If the City and the District were neighbors and the District asked the City to go in on an expensive communal front yard, under what circumstances would the District be able to roll up that yard and move it to another neighborhood? Sure, the District might allow the City to come and sit on it once in a while, but why, after so much public money spent on the maintenance and improvement of the site would the City agree to let their investment go away? This seems like a serious misuse of tax money. The City of Lynnwood is being asked to invest in a communal resource that isn’t in the center of the community and therefore not a convenient resource for the majority of their taxpayers.

The City must have also developed a recreational plan around the Lynnwood Athletic Complex and likely made decisions about property acquisitions knowing they had access and on-going expenses there. How will the City backfill this tremendous void? How will the City accommodate all of the parking they need for their annual fireworks displays? How will the City recover from such a loss of recreational space to its community?

Federal funds were used to improve and enhance the Lynnwood Athletic Complex. These funds came from federal taxes and there is an obligation that such funds be used in a responsible manner. In order to even consider uprooting a federally-supported athletic complex, there must be a similar amount of comparable real estate taking its place. The new Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Mill Creek or unincorporated Snohomish County will hardly fit that bill. The Federal government identified the City of Lynnwood as being in need of infrastructural improvements and recreational opportunities. The District cannot, with a clear conscience, disregard that Federal mandate, roll up their carpet and drag it out of town. This would be no different than removing all of the furniture from Lynnwood City Hall and taking it to Mill Creek. The enhancement earmarked for one community cannot be easily transferred to another - and certainly not at the whim of an agency as small and as unsophisticated as a school district.

This would be the same agency that believes they have the right to sell public property - at any time - to support the pet projects of a flash-in-the-pan Superintendent. Public property must remain public property at all times. Just because one school administrator has a friend in need of property to develop doesn’t warrant the unloading of a public asset. Such an asset will only have to be restored at considerable expense when the children return. Without a doubt, the children will return. It would have been far better to allow another public agency to make use of the property in the interim.

Why is the Edmonds School District ground leasing the Edmonds Civic Playfields to the City of Edmonds for one dollar a year? Would it not have made more sense to sell the Civic Playfields to the City? Would it have made more sense to ground lease the Old Woodway Elementary site to the City of Edmonds for a period of ten years, while the City resolved their funding issues for an eventual purchase? During the ten year ground lease, the City could have demolished the building and improved the site. Of course, one would hope the property would lease for slightly more than a dollar a year.

It is deeply distressing to witness the thoughtless plundering that has gripped district administration. Their lack of wisdom is comparable to a crazy homeowner that removes his roof based upon a single day of sunshine. The District no longer does any real planning and missed their own boat, dock and lake regarding student enrollment forecasting. This same district now believes there will never be an increase in long-term student enrollment that might one day warrant a high school across from the Alderwood Mall AND on North Road.

The future taxpayers in our community will have Hell to pay. I just hope I won’t be around when the bill comes in.

Venable and venerable are two different words.

I would like to shine the light on the infamous, but never found, named or listed BAC - Budget Advisory Committee. Who is this? What kind of advisers are they? There are NO community members in this group. They are ALL a part of the Supt staff or department heads.

What kind of results can we expect the group farthest away from students to create? Searching the district website yields NO results. Telephone calls all shield the identity of the members.

It is certain that no one wants their name attached to the "proposal" to slash 4 million dollars.
And when is the "proposal" unveiled?

Regarding your last post-
Librarians HAVE been surplussed. The six smallest schools are being reduced to half time librarians. Six at the six smallest schools were asked to "give input" on their next assignment. Coincidentally, there just happened to be enough vacancies due to leave/non-continuing contracts. The spin is already underway to say that no librarians lost their jobs. How can this be a proposal? Let the double speak begin.

The difference between the sixth smallest and seventh smallest schools is less than ten students; possibly 1 depending on when and how you count. And why not cut partial FTE at a greater number of schools? This also plays the envy card between schools- the big vs the small. Who is responsible for boundary lines? Who is watching enrollment numbers? or is this a matter of convenience?

This is wrong in so many ways. To what extent is it a proposal, when you've already told six schools to plan on getting by with a half time librarian? Which means a library staffed half time; and dark half the time. Librarians who work hard to integrate technology? (so why get more with a levy?) Another way it's wrong is in creating second class schools. It may be more painful to close a school, but the levels of service should be equitable between schools. They all pay the same taxes. Other points briefly include curriculum collaboration, instructional support, access to books and technology, reading promotions, etc.

Of course, no one is suggesting part-time principals, or part-time supt. staff. There work is going down with fewer students right?

Librarians are inspired by the esd15 blog and have created an communication vehicle.

Please enjoy occasional entries from this blog with more details for librarians.

Our big goal is to get a huge crowd wearing red symbolic of bleeding at the April 22 Board Meeting. Cutting librarians cuts the wrong spots, and one too close to students.

Would you consider republishing your million dollar list of cuts? It was a great entry which will certainly be timely again very soon. Add to it the mailing of any PR to the households of the 6 cities. Mail runs every other day. No assistants to the assistants. etc. Transportation cuts. Outsourcing. Maybe you've got another million dollars out there?

Other item of interest-
Here is the "party line" which has gone out to staff, parents and others in the exact same form.

March 28, 2008

Dear Mountlake Terrace Elementary Staff,

I understand there are questions regarding the budget process. All school districts in the state are facing this type of fiscal challenge and are having to seriously look at reductions that none have ever wanted to consider, just to meet operational levels.

We do appreciate the service of all staff and we understand the need to pay employees a competitive wage; the issue is a lack of state funding to meet these obligations.

At this point there are a number of ideas that are being reviewed. Included is the idea of reducing the 6 smallest elem. school LMS positions to .5. Details associated with this type of change are still being reviewed. Also, the enrollment of special education students has been declining in the district; special services staff are processing reductions to match that decline. We will still be supporting special services with general fund dollars, well beyond state and federal funding.

These concepts and many others, including reductions to central office administrators, have started to be processed yesterday with the work of the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC). It will progress to the P-12 group later in April, then to the Board in a study session. The budget development process will continue through the end of the school year and results in our final recommendations to our Board in July and an August approval by the Board.

To even think about reducing staff we all value and know make a difference in children’s lives is painful. Any ideas generated that would help the district meet its fiscal realities for 08-09, are welcome and will be considered. However, few if any have been able to come up with ideas or areas we have not already reduced as a system in prior years. Thus, we are looking at reductions and changes in how we do the work, reductions in what work is done, and reductions in the number of staff available to do the work.

Thank you again for your dedication and passion in working with our students. I appreciate your patience as we work through this difficult task. We will keep you informed as the process continues.


Sue Venable
Assistant Superintendent
Edmonds School District #15
(425) 431-7155

Editorial: Thank you to another anonymous contributor.
Fun Factoid: Mark Zandberg is the son of a Librarian.