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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

State audit dings Sunnyside schools for poor alt ed scrutiny

by John Stang September 11th, 2012

The Sunnyside school district in Yakima County was wrongly paid $213,110 because it misreported the number of students in a home-based computer learning program, a recent state audit said.

The Washington State Auditor’s Office reported that the district counted 19 too many full-time equivalent students – translating to 95 “student months” – in its Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program from November 2010 to March 2011. The Sunnyside district reported 552 ALE student months in the 2010-11 school year, or the equivalent of slightly more than 69 year-long students in the program. The program provides online education for students not best served in traditional settings.

Other deficiencies included inadequate ALE class rosters; uncertified staff approving one student’s learning plan; insufficient documentation showing required weekly contacts between students and program staff; six students making unsatisfactory progress; some classes not having syllabuses; and no signed parental agreements for seven students.

The Sunnyside district hired a private company, The American Academy (TAA), to run the program and did not adequately monitor the contract, the audit report said.

The report included a school district reply that said: “We agree that TAA did not comply with all of the paperwork set forth by the state legislators and (Office of Superintendent Public instruction) for ALE reporting. The district is working with TAA to make sure these requirements are met for future reporting. The district reported to OSPI those students that completed classes in the TAA program for reimbursement and therefore feel that we shouldn’t be monetarily impacted for paper work issues that can be corrected.”

The state paid the Sunnyside district $294,615 for ALE students in 2010-11, of which the auditor’s office said irregularities caused $213,110 not to be confirmable for the state’s records.The district’s 2010-11 budget was $63.4 million.

Public Data Ferret’s Education and Management archive

The East Valley school district, also in Yakima County, was dinged for similar problems in a July state auditor’s report – improperly collecting $66,717 in state money for an Alternative Learning Experience program that had inadequate monitoring and financial controls.


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Monroe Schools honcho forced to quit after sex pics scandal

by Matt Rosenberg September 4th, 2012

The director of the Monroe, Wash. School District’s high school-level alternative education program called Leaders In Learning, who was earning $109,260 in total salary and benefits, was forced to resign because he used his school computer to view sexually explicit images, including some of his wife. Over a period of six years, the inappropriate content got steamier, as complaints and warnings from fellow employees made uncomfortable, were ignored.

Though the resignation occurred in June 2011, this case was made public only last week through a final order of suspension of the state education certificate of Kenneth Brown, quietly posted online by the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) at a page where hundreds of such disciplinary documents dating as far back as 1992 are linked – but only alphabetically by employee’s last name, not by date or school district.

Audit: oversight lax for alt. ed students in Yakima

by John Stang August 1st, 2012

A state audit said Yakima County’s East Valley school district improperly collected $66,717 in state money for an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program serving home-based students via computers, by failing to exercise required oversight ensuring the students were adequately participating. In violation of funding conditions, the district didn’t document that many students in ALE were actually making adequate progress, or putting in required hours of work. In some cases, ALE students failed to make contact with district staff for at least 20 days, also in violation of state funding rules. Some of those students had left the program but were still being counted as participants. Overall, full due diligence monitoring wasn’t performed for half the students in the district’s ALE program in 2010, nor for 70 percent in 2011, according to the audit.

After Kennewick teacher’s series of sexual emails: a salary hike, retirement, then a state reprimand

by Matt Rosenberg July 31st, 2012

A teacher at Kamiakin High School in the Kennewick, Wash. school district is finally getting a penalty from the state for using his school email account to receive, view and forward pictures of nude and partially nude women; and for using it to receive and view images of sexually explicit conduct. Among the classes he taught was “principles of technology.” One individual to whom he forwarded sexual content was the district’s Maintenance and Operations Supervisor Ken Smith. But the 45-day teaching certificate suspension conditionally accepted last week by Emil J. “Jerry” Carlson in an agreed order with the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Pubic Instruction comes after Carlson reaped an $11,000 annual increase in pay and benefits while the district knew of his actions; and finally, after his recent retirement noted by the Tri-City Herald. The state disciplinary action against him also comes a full 32 months after the state was informed of the problems by the Kennewick district. No students were involved.

WSU-Vancouver’s $130K promo blitz aims to up enrollment

by Matt Rosenberg July 24th, 2012

Washington State University’s Vancouver, Wash. campus is seeking requests for proposals from marketing firms to help the school boost its overall campus population an ambitious seven to nine percent yearly through a direct campaign targeting prospective freshman. WSU classes in “America’s Vancouver” across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore. began in 1983 and WSU-Vancouver’s full facility opened in 1989 as “the urban research campus” of the WSU system. It had been focused on courses mainly for upperclassmen and a smaller cohort of graduate students until the 2005-06 school year.

Then it started admitting freshmen and sophomores, and began buying the first of 254,000 student names to date for marketing campaigns to prospective enrollees. Typically such lists are bought from companies offering standardized college admissions tests such as as the SAT and ACT to high-schoolers. Total spring 2012 enrollment at the Vancouver campus was 3,006 students, up gradually from 1,977 in spring 2006, according to online data from WSU.

1,000 items, including laptops, vanish from Seattle schools

by John Stang July 5th, 2012

More than 1,000 school-owned “assets” – primarily computers, laptops, maintenance equipment, and classroom items – have been reported missing from Seattle schools since January 2009, said a Washington State Auditor’s Office report released this week. The report concluded that the school district does not have adequate procedures to keep track of equipment inventories, including keeping tabs on the dollar values of individual items of equipment. The audit also faulted the district for a lack of follow-up to find missing items and to hold employees accountable for them. The audit declared that the Seattle district owns 45,269 pieces of equipment, of which 6,964 don’t have a dollar value assigned to them. The audit also said the district lost 1,078 “assets” from January 2009 to January 2012. That included 907 missing items in an October 2011 inventory at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence building and maintenance shops. The auditor’s office was not able to provide an estimate of the total dollar value of the items, and did not go into details on the missing “assets” beyond saying they included maintenance equipment, laptops, communications gear and classroom items. One item was an iPad that a principal did not return when he left the school district.

The audit report was actually released July 2 though it was dated June 27. It stated, “It appears the District does not place a priority on inventory procedures, resulting in inadequate resources allocated to safeguarding assets. Consequently, large numbers of assets are missing, the District does not follow up to locate missing items in a timely manner, and does not hold staff accountable for missing assets assigned to their care.” The report also noted, “for example, we reviewed the most recent physical inventory at Aki Kurose Middle School on February 9, 2010, which found 77 missing assets. The fixed asset accountant sent the Principal a Missing Property Report itemizing the missing assets, and asking the Principal to research, locate, and report on them. The Principal also needed to certify the report within 30 days. As of April 2012, none of the reports were certified. Additionally, the District did not perform follow-up to locate the assets or hold the Principal accountable for them.”

The new findings on missing assets come after another state auditor’s office report in June of last year found 31 laptop computers worth $33,759 had disappeared from a Cleveland High School program, with 13 of those lost computers not reported gone in a timely manner. Twelve of the 30 students reporting missing computers received new ones without paying replacement costs or deposits for the new ones. One student lost two computers.

Bellevue College seeks approval of new bachelor’s degree program in ‘Big Data’ analytics; fall 2014 start eyed

by Matt Rosenberg July 2nd, 2012

For many community college students in Washington state, getting a two-year associate degree might be a ticket into the workplace. But more so than ever, advancing to a higher rank and responsibilities requires more education. So rather than merely serve as a cost-effective warm-up for further training elsewhere, some community colleges in Washington state, including one that has dropped the word “community” from its name, are stepping up with their own special “applied baccalaureate” or career-centric bachelor’s degree programs in high-demand fields which have been emphasized by regional employers during outreach efforts of educators. One such institution is Bellevue College, formerly Bellevue Community College. And as officials there have continued developing applied bachelor’s degree programs in subject areas mandated under a 2011 state budget proviso – namely, information technology, nursing, and environmental and biological sciences – they realized there was a missing piece of the equation. So in a required two-year plan for the new programs that they recently submitted to the state, Bellevue College announced its intention to add one more: Bachelor of Applied Science in Data Analytics. (See pp. 14-15 of the Bellevue College Applied Baccalaureate Degree Implementation Program).

Management requires growing analysis of “structured and unstructured” data
“Big Data is an ‘explosive’ trend,” the college says in its plan. “As large amounts of structured and unstructured data are being collected in all industry sectors, the emergence of of easy-to-use yet sophisticated analytics tools and portals is increasing rapidly…in healthcare, business, finance and other industries to increase operational efficiency and support professionals and administrators in all levels of decision-making.”

Bellevue College will form a multi-disciplinary workgroup to flesh out the new degree program and will provide a statement of need to the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges at the board’s first meeting this coming fall. The special degree program in data analytics would start in fall 2014, with the board’s okay, and would graduate its first students in spring of 2017.

WA teacher helped students game standardized tests

by William McKee June 24th, 2012

A Washington state elementary school teacher in the Colville district with 26 years of experience resigned her job as disciplinary actions unfolded following charges she provided “unauthorized assistance” to students in her fifth-grade classroom for three straight years during state-mandated achievement tests. The narrative emerges from an agreed order recently posted online by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in which Sherral M. Kaiser, 52, formerly of Fort Colville Elementary School in Colville, Wash., agrees to the temporary suspension of her teaching certificate for unprofessional conduct.

Teacher’s testing improprieties were only reported to the state after three years
According to the findings of fact in the agreed order signed by Kaiser and top state education officials May 30, 2012, the Colville School District did not notify OSPI until June 14, 2010 that Kaiser for three straight school years, from 2007-08 into 2009-10, had provided “unauthorized assistance to students in her 5th grade classroom” during state-mandated Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and then Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) achievement tests, and instructed classroom assistants to do likewise, despite Kaiser “having been previously trained in the proper testing procedures.”

The agreed order further reveals that it was only after Kaiser in late May of 2010 engaged in minor misappropriation of Colville district funds of less $40 – by using for personal purposes a returned item credit voucher from a Walmart store where she bought classroom materials on the district’s account – that the district placed her on (paid) administrative leave, and reported her testing improprieties to the state. A pending criminal case in Stevens County court related to her $37.36 misappropriation from the district was dropped as part of a settlement agreement which included her resignation effective August 31, 2011. Though on leave from June 1, 2010 until then, Kaiser was paid total salary and benefits of $79,936 for the 2010-2011 school year according to public records accessed via a Kitsap Sun database.