Saturday, May 29, 2010

SPS Administration and Don Cherry’s jackets: Bad Choices All Around

Many a Crappy! Chart! Thursday! has come and gone with nary a peep from me. Look, stuff has been goin’ on. It may seem weird, but now and then I tear myself away from the thrill of staring at district finance figures and do Other Stuff.

And today, I don’t even have a crappy chart (it's not Thursday, anyway), just a little game to score for fun.

Squaring off? SPS’s total audit findings vs. the next 14 largest districts in the state’s audit findings, combined. SPS total students (as reported here, on OSPI): 46,430. The next 14 biggest districts total students: 310,288. Who will have more negative findings from the auditor? The suspense is... probably not even close to killing you. Still, have a drink (you might need it) and read on.

One of the other things I’ve been doing is watching hockey, which, if you watch it on CBUT (is there any other way to watch hockey?) also means watching Don Cherry’s jackets (which you can - and should - follow on this blog).

And… wow. I know the jackets are his gimmick and all, but still. Wow. Tonight he was wearing one that looked like the cracked-out love child of a New York City cab and Liberace, only worse (pictured below). It was… attention-getting. The jackets pictured above are a little understated by comparison.

And I will use this as a not-very-graceful lead-in to something else that got my attention: the recent State Auditor’s report on Seattle Public Schools.

All kinds of troubling shenanigans were highlighted, several of which have been brought to the district’s attention for years. That's right. Years. Imagine, just for a moment, how understanding your employer would be if they notified you of a serious error in your performance, and you continued to make it for years. Also, think of the interviews in which the Superintendent would say "you wouldn't run a business this way." And you would run a business by... repeatedly ignoring an auditor evaluating your operations? Uh, o-tay.

Anyhoo, in all the train-wreck-ish spectacle of the report, what really got my attention was this comment from the auditor:

“As a result [of errors and omissions], financial statement users do not have accurate information to evaluate and understand the financial position of the District.”

That's right. The district's financial reports are so riddled with errors and omissions that even complete nerds (because "financial statement user" is clearly code for "nerrrrrrrrd") can't get an accurate picture of what's going on. I sat there, staring at the screen, completely gobsmacked, in almost the exact same way that sometimes one is left speechless as Don Cherry talks about a good hit, and all you can do is stare at his jacket instead of watching the replay. And then I thought, Holy Incompetent Bozos, Batman!

And then I thought: maybe I’m being rather unfair. "Holy Incompetent Bozos" is a little on the bitchy side. Okay. It's a lot on the bitchy side. So I thought, maybe other districts have a bunch of unfavorable-seeming findings from the state auditor. Maybe other districts blow off the auditor’s findings, too.

So, it being cold and damp outside, I went through the State Auditor’s reports on the largest 15 districts in the state of Washington (okay. I was going to do the Top 20, but I got through 17 and abandoned ship because it was really, really boring), to see what other districts did. I scored it, to make it easy to play from home.

Number of unfavorable findings for Seattle: 7
Number of unfavorable findings for other 14 districts (I'll note, again: combined): 2


7 to 2. And that's not a score you want to be on the winning side of.

The score looks even worse when one considers that one of the unfavorable findings – for Northshore district, over documentation – amounts to only part of one of the findings for Seattle. And it looks even worse when one reads over other reports, and learns that other districts fix the problems that the auditor finds. Kent? Fixes the problems before they even get into the report. The auditor's there, looking through their financials, and says, "you know, it looks like this might be going on" and the Kent staff looks into and fixes it right then.

Not a single one of the other 15 largest districts in the state ignores the auditor's findings. They all take it seriously, and take steps to fix the problems that the auditor identifies.

I'm sure it's because other districts simply don't understand how to create a foundational framework that will ensure Excellence for All to effectively move forward with benchmarking best practices which will allow the issues the auditor has identified to be resolved.

So what will make at least 4 board members stand up and say: Enough, dudes? Don Cherry, speaking during public testimony? Actually, that's not a bad idea. Tonight's jacket might be enough to hypnotize them into taking decisive action.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posts Meg, they are entertaining and enlightening. Keep em coming. Did you march today to show disapproval of MGJ?

Anonymous said...

Great post...and they haevn't even received there other audit report yet that they usually get every year.

李智淑 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sahila said...

go here and sign... its a start in turning SPS around... first the Superintendent (tho why we're not demanding she be fired I dont know), then remove the rubber stampers on the Board, to be replaced by people who aren't owned by the corporate players...

then bring in some people who know what they're doing educationally and managerially... who know our kids are not mass-produced widgets ....

Staff at four Seattle schools have already voted 'no confidence' in Maria Goodloe-Johnson... a group of parents (representing the various interest groups/communities in SPS and calling ourselves the Seattle Shadow School Board/Seattle Education 2010) are circulating this petition, with a view to presenting it to the Board at its meeting on June 16th; we're also planning a rally before that meeting...

If you want to know more/be involved, call me on 206 679 1738....