Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crappy! Chart! Thursday (ish)! How Bad? Purdy Bad

So, the songs I sing about Seattle Public Schools have some regular lyrics and themes that crop up again and again. Usually there are lyrics (and themes!) about the overgrown central administration. There are ballads about the lack of bona-fide scrutiny from the school board. I sing about using money that should directly benefit students for other purposes (district’s imagined reply, a very non-punk-rock response: “because we here at Seattle public schools are committed to an excellent education for every student, we are, in accordance with the strategic plan, strengthening our infrastructure and systems to better support our teachers in their important work.”). I carry on about misdirection and a lack of honesty. There are heartfelt lines about the milllllllions of mis-spent money. And, of course, there are crappy charts. And because that's all so cheerful, here's a happy picture of some beautiful beach weather:

Okay, it's totally gray and grim. But pretty. Anyway. That's a whole lotta schtuff to squeeze into one song, when you think about it. Maybe I should make a prize for the person who comes up with the best poem/song using all those themes. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a haiku (although: serious bonus points if you can get all that into a haiku).

As an aside (okay, as another aside), you have to admit, it would be pretty fun to if Dr. Evil sang that song. He'd get great inflection on millllllllions. He would probably make it something of a love song, because Dr. Evil would have to appreciate dipshit bureaucratic maneuverings that keep the public in the dark and spent said public's money in idiotic ways, but, well. Okay. I’ll stop there. Still. It could be fun, is all I’m sayin’.

Anyway. With all the similarly-themed harping that I do, I sometimes feel a bit… repetitive. And insane. My dad sometimes calls me Dona Quixote (Thanks, Dad. That makes me feel so much less crazy). I worry that maybe I’ve gotten a little too much of an axe to grind, and can't see things with even a veneer of objectivity.

And then (cue the clouds opening, rainbows pouring out, and Dr Evil singing my song, accompanied by angels. Or maybe sharks. Singing sharks. With friggin' lasers on their heads.) I read the two reports on the Seattle Public School district that the state auditors office issued this year. Well, I read them again. Don't look at me funny. It's not like I was reading Anna Karenina.

Just in case you like to read light novels for your summer reading (weirdo), I'll chart out some of the findings. Let's start with comparing accountability reports - we'll take a look at how many areas the auditor examined for each of the state's largest districts (plus Bellevue, because I feel like it) and how many areas they found problems in. Guess who had problems in every area the auditor's office examined? I'll give you a hint: it's not Vancouver. And, in chart number 2, you can learn that only 7 districts in the state have had some kind of reported finding every year for the last 4 years. In that time, approximately 120 other districts had at least one finding, but didn't have them every. single. year. Guess which large district is one of 7 district in the state to have adverse findings every. single. year? It ain't Tacoma. So this second one is kind of interesting, but I'm not really sure how important it is, or if it distracts from serious raised in the audit reports. Is district size a relevant issue here? Sunnyside (~6,000 kids) and Snohomish (~10,000) aren't huge, but they don't qualify as teeny, either. Vashon and Quillayute Valley (which I probably spelled incorrectly) are both over 1,000 but under 2,000 (so... mid-small?), and Darrington and Tahola are both below 500 (pretty teeny).

Could persistent compliance/operational issues in smaller districts be due to a lack of the specialized resources needed to self-audit? It seems like it would, but then, of course... there's SPS (which has its own internal auditor). Go ahead and start working on your haikus to explain that anomaly. I'm going to go to bed, and dream of Dr. Evil singing my songs, and consider whether sharks or angels would be better accompanists.


Anonymous said...

Sharks, definately sharks. Maybe with mylar tutus to reflect the laser hats on their heads, as well as to tie into that no-so-secret trannie vibe Dr. Evil gives off.
And it HAS TO include some Busby Berkley style choreography - at the rate the school district is blowing money, we should at least get some quality entertainment ;-)

Maureen said...

I can't carry a tune, let alone write one. How about this?

Many of us heard
One hundred dollars per plate
As a wake up call

Maria, We hope
You will be accountable
When the party’s done

Charlie Mas said...

There is a YouTube of your Board testimony. I watched it and I have to tell you that YOU ARE A ROCK STAR!!

SC Parent said...

So, the District has had its number of audit findings increase each year for the past 4 years! Crazy! That seems like a good enough reason for me to vote no on the levy.

Meg said...

Anon- okay, the mylar tutus are totally brills. And I'm sure the choreography could be billed as professional development.

Maureen- hey, the best I could come up with was:

Excellence for all
poppycock and slogans
enjoy your dinner

I like your verses better.

Charlie- I wish the perks of being a school district nerd rock star (and thank you) maybe included free high end frivolous shoes. Or just expedited public records request fulfillment from the district.

SC Parent - I don't know if the increase in total findings is the biggest problem. Some of the fundings, it has to be admitted, are not huge deals. The transportation reporting finding? Eh. I can't quite get worked up on that one. I'm more troubled that the auditor found problems in every area they looked at, and found that SPS doesn't, on the whole, follow either its own policies or procedures, or state and federal law. In every other school district audit report I've read (and I've slogged through a ton of them at this point), the auditor either states that the district largely follows its own policies and procedures, or is excellent about it. SPS is the only district in which the auditor points out that neither the school board nor district management is very well acquainted with policies, procedures or laws. I'm voting no on the levy because although I think the state truly doesn't provide adequate funding, I think SPS is squandering the resources it has.