Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Work Session on the 2017-2018 Budget

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Work Session on the 2017-2018 Budget:

Work Session on the 2017-2018 Budget

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For this Work Session, all of the directors were present in person except for Director Blanford who was there via phone.  The Superintendent was there as were several senior staff members.

President Peters did seem to set a good tone for action when she stated, "We are going to have to make decisions tonight."

I actually don't want to do a complete detailing of the work session but I'll just summarize and give some highlights.  Also, some of the nitty-gritty of the details of what pots of reserves that are actually going to be used went over my head.  I felt like I must have miss that discussion somewhere.

Agenda

Summary
1) There actually was only one decision made and that was whether to go with all the staff's recommendations as a package or not.  At the beginning, I absolutely did not think that this was how the Board would do it.  I thought they might eliminate or substitute items but as the session dragged on, it became clear it would be all or nothing.

Naturally, nothing really wasn't an option so the majority of the Board (except for President Peters and Vice-President Patu) said yes (to varying degrees but frankly, once you say "yes," it's yes.

2) Keep in mind that because of how senior management works - mostly in secret and with less-than-optimum transparency in their decision-making - PLUS the factor that we really don't know what the final outcome will be from the Legislature (nor when), there truly are a lot of holes out there.

Hence, during the meeting, the Board and the staff regularly referred to "Restoration 2.0" and "Restoration 3.0."  So there will be on-going changes.  

I'll note that Director Harris did talk about the lack of ability for community to give feedback and the belief that Central Office may be bloated and it feels all very vague "and I understand why."   

For example, as you may know, the levy cliff bill was passed.  However, right now, it will only fill a $25M gap and not $30M because of the per pupil inflator (PPI).  The district may, in the end, get the entire $30M but it just not clear now.

3) I must praise (with some of it damning) the efforts of JoLynn Berge who performed quite well in her role as the main speaker for the district.  She was measured and careful in her wording but really didn't budge an inch.  But that was to her credit and there was not much pushback from the Board. 

4) What put the Board in something of a hemmed in feeling was that staff would not say where Central staff cuts might happen because they hadn't told those people.  Well, it is possible to generally state - as they seem to have done quite easily for school staff - where departments cuts might come from for Central.  It was mentioned that there was an April 7th deadline for notifications.

Highlights
- The Superintendent spoke of how they were able to restore two-thirds of possible cuts to staff at schools.  However, he spoke of a "small request to give a hint of hope to Central Office staff" that they would not bear the brunt of the cuts. 

- One item that some on the Board particularly did not appreciate was one of the guiding questions from staff for restoration - "Are people more essential than other non-staff items in eliminating opportunity gaps?"  I agree.  I think that is something of emotional bait that is not helpful in making hard, cold 
Seattle Schools Community Forum: Work Session on the 2017-2018 Budget:

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