12:25 PM: Six days after word of teacher cuts and moves started getting around, Seattle Public Schools is
announcing (updated) working on its final decisions. We’re on our way to a 12:30 pm media briefing at district headquarters (announced on short notice), and we’ve just heard from a member of the STEM K-8 community that principal Ben Ostrom has sent an announcement. Excerpt:
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) October staffing adjustment has been finalized and unfortunately affects STEM K-8. District enrollment shortfalls necessitated the displacement of STEM’s K-8 class size reduction position. This position was assigned to reduce class sizes in our 3rd and 4th grades. Lower than projected district-wide enrollment, combined with higher than anticipated operating costs, resulted in SPS being unable to support positions below contracted class size ratios. Displaced staff are reassigned to support schools with enrollment above projections.
We’ll update live from the news conference when it begins. If you’ve heard anything from other schools – firstname.lastname@example.org – thanks.
12:33 PM: We’re awaiting the briefing. But the district reps who are here – including associate superintendent Flip Herndon and communications officer Jacque Coe – say they don’t have a list.
12:37 PM: If you have Periscope, we’re live there with this. Coe says they’re “moving less than 1 percent of teachers,” and that these are “not cuts,” no teachers are losing their jobs. Teachers will be “moved to positions of highest needs” – if one school has less enrollment, they’re being moved to one where “children have a need for a teacher because of class sizes … it’s a balancing act … it occurs in every district around the state.” She says this was “earlier notification” than in years past. She said there was a “significant number of students projected to show up … that didn’t … that we believe went to surrounding districts.” She says they can’t just add a teacher to a school – “it would be just as disruptive as pulling a teacher.” She says that they don’t want to slow down the process, because “waiting (longer) will be just as disruptive.”
“This is what inadequate state funding looks like at the local level,” Coe declared. “Because of (that), districts are constantly adjusting budgets. District have to live by their budgets, by law. Dipping into district reserves is not fiscally responsible.” She says almost every elementary school has “an extra teacher” at their building, “but that’s not enough.” Friday, she says, is when they “should know all the staff who are being moved … but it’s still a very fluid process.” The deadline for changes to be in place is October 26th.
12:47 PM: Herndon and Coe are answering questions based on regional reporters asking about Seattle policies compared to other districts. They basically contend this is something all districts are going through. We asked about Schmitz Park’s teacher loss (as discussed last week) leading to ratios of 28 or 29 students to one teacher in first-grade classrooms and Herndon said it was just a matter of how the state funding shook out. “When we’re talking about the overall class ratio .. there’s going to be some variation from school to school.”
12:54 PM: Coe says again, it’s not accurate to say “cuts,” no one is losing their job. Asked about reports of district unresponsiveness to parents’ concerns, she says one specific contact went awry. Asked “is there a better way to project?” Coe says that “we had a major event prior to the start of school” – apparently referring to the teacher strike – that could have had a significant effect. Last year, more than 300 students opted out to other districts, Herndon said, this year, more than 1,000. But, he says, they don’t know why those parents opted out. Coe says that “private funding” (like the Alki Elementary fundraiser, though it wasn’t mentioned by name) “lets the legislature off the hook” and they would “encourage parents to talk to their state legislators.” Asked about the letter that legislators sent to the district asking them to hold off on these changes, Coe says, “When last I checked, the Supreme Court was waiting” (for legislators to fully fund education). She reiterates that it’s not responsible to “dip into reserves.”
1:01 PM: Asked again why they don’t have a list of schools that are losing and gaining teachers, Herndon said, “Because we’re still working through the process.” He also said they’re trying to work toward “the least disruption.” Asked how these moves save money, Herndon says, because if they’re moving a teacher from one position to another, they wind up with one position instead of two. The number that’s been circulating, 25, they say, is accurate so far as they know. Coe says she’s hopeful we’re going to have a list “soon.”
1:07 PM: The briefing just ended. We recorded it on conventional video as well and will add that when it’s uploaded. You can watch the playback (really only worth listening, our visual angle was a bit janky) on our Periscope channel.
1:28 PM: The school district’s increase in central administration (“district office”) budget – 16.4% – has come up often. West Seattle/South Park school board rep Marty McLaren sent us this memo she had received from the administration spelling out where the increases were made, and it confirms the budget went up by that number: