Brief Re-cap of Current SPS Challenges
While there are many good things happening in our schools, there are still many challenges. Parents and community members turned out in significant numbers at the School Board meeting on November 19 to testify about a whole host of issues. There were, in fact, more people on the wait list (30) to testify than got to speak (25). Below is a brief re-cap of some of the testimony and issues:
- P-5 Achools Aligned with Seattle Preschool Program. SCPTSA supports preschool, and requested a delay of the vote on this item so that the District SCPTSA Letter to Directors and Superintendent would have time to do the appropriate due diligence. There was no delay, and the School Board voted (5-2) to approve. Staff committed to ensuring that a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) would be developed and voted on before any SPS resources would be dedicated to the city’s program.
- Short Lunch Times. Lunch- and recess-time parents have discovered that many elementary schools are providing only 15 minutes for lunch when board policy requires it to be at least 20 minutes of “seated” time. Parents are concerned that their children are coming home hungry and have formed a Facebook group to bring attention to the matter. The District has recently conducted a survey of principals and has some task forces assigned.
- Enrollment Counts and Staffing Reduction Cuts. There was testimony that the officially reported enrollment counts to the State are different than what SPS is reporting now, and likely significant errors. The District has cut teachers at a number of schools well after the beginning of the school year because of the enrollment counts, and suggested that PTAs could fund those positions if they could raise the money. It was unclear from the testimony and absence of the Board response, if there is work to verify and/or correct any errors in the enrollment counts, and concerning that our PTAs are asked to fund-raise to keep their teachers.
- Native American Education. Several people testified that promises to the Native American education efforts are left unfulfilled.
- Student Data Privacy. The District released confidential data of 8,000 students and is working on retrieving it. Questions still remain about how and why this occurred and what will be done in the future to protect student data. Dr. Nyland reports that e-mails have gone out to impacted families.
- Growth Boundaries Revisions for 2015. There are thousands of families which will be impacted by more changes to boundaries for 2015. SCPTSA has previously requested that the District update the long range enrollment projections with current information and revise the severely outdated Facilities Master Plan to ensure that a families aren’t being split up and moved from one over crowded school to another over crowded school.
- Transportation and Student Safety. The District reduced bussing services this year and many families are impacted across the district. Several weeks back there was testimony from the families of Graham Hill whose students, who previously had bussing, were accosted and shot at walking to school. Because their route to school involves crossing busy roads, they recently narrowly avoided being hit by traffic as well. The children are afraid to walk to school and are now receiving truancy letters from the District.